Beneath the surface of Dellah, there are gods. And they really, really want you to believe in them.
Professor Bernice Summmerfield.
Irving Braxiatel, originally from Theatre of War and kind-of implied in City of Death.
Clarence, originally from Ghost Devices.
Pg 16 A brief appearance of Wolsey, who was given to the Doctor in Human Nature and then, in turn, to Bernice in The Dying Days.
Down is pretty necessary. The Also People isn't so much, but it's such a good book that you may as well. Go on, you know you want to.
Pg 3 "The rest of the People were scattered throughout their local galaxy, many travelling on the sentient ships which were, themselves, also People." K'ching. These were all introduced in The Also People, as was God, who is mentioned a little further down the page.
"Most were returning from somewhere that, according to the People's strictest treaty, they weren't supposed to have visited in the first place." The treaty is with the Time Lords, as established in The Also People. It gets lots of mentioned here, so I don't record them all.
Pg 4 "She'd been all over him a week ago when the journey from Tyler's Folly began." Tyler's Folly was the setting for Down and as this book is pretty much a direct sequel to that one, it gets plenty of mentions; as with the treaty, then, I don't record them all.
Pg 6 "Clarence hadn't been in Earth's galaxy when the evacuation began." Clarence was originally !C-Mel, the murderous ship in The Also People. He became Gabriel when God put what was left of his mind into a force-grown angel-shaped body as we saw in Ghost Devices, in which Benny also renamed him Clarence.
Pg 7 "Crammed into this humanoid shell were the remains of an intelligence that had once been able to run a starship - that had actually been a starship. Then the accident had happened." A reference to said event in The Also People.
Pg 10 "Bernice looking at his naked, improbable form for the first time, and her lips quirking up in her trademark half-smile. Bernice drugged and weeping because she believed she'd destroyed the future and killed her friends. Bernice taking comfort in his arms and allowing him to find out, for the first and only time, what it felt like to an organic kissing another organic." Ghost Devices and Walking to Babylon.
Pg 11 "The last time I saw her, I told her that I didn't risk my life to save her because she was going to die anyway." Walking to Babylon.
"It was nice to see another angel; to try to understand what God meant when he gave me this body. To hear the punch line." The film they appear to be watching is It's A Wonderful Life, the angel in which is called Clarence - not so much a coincidence as you might think, because Bernice was referencing the film when she gave him the name (Ghost Devices).
Pg 21 "His hand flicked almost imperceptibly in the direction of the group of students gathered around the old book. They were still all holding hands and seemed spellbound by the short, ochre-skinned humanoid reading to them." It's probably coincidence, but the religious fervour that is happening on Dellah seems very similar to the behavior of the Faction Paradox acolytes in The Ancestor Cell.
Pg 22 "Look, they're hugging. That's nice; hugging's very healthy, I'm told. Not drastically my scene." Benny's dislike of hugging is established way back in Love and War.
Pg 32 "'They want me to come home, Benny.' Not exactly what she'd been expecting. 'My people want me to leave Dellah.'" Braxiatel's people are, of course, the Time Lords.
Pg 33 "Above him, the planet Whynot floated." The Also People.
Pg 34 "I'm just a remote: a stealth drone from the B-Aaron." The ships as introduced in The Also People were all cunningly named after NA authors. Here the favour is returned as the B-Aaron is cunningly named after The Also People's writer, Ben Aaronovitch.
Pg 35 "'So what is it about?' Clarence asked. 'Operation Ragnarok.'" Probably nothing whatsoever to do with the Gods of Ragnarok from The Greatest Show in the Galaxy, but see below.
Pg 38 "Now he really was down to the dregs: writing advertising blurb for the numerous productions the theatrology department put on over the course of a term." Theatrology was cruicial to the plot of Theatre of War which introduced Braxiatel but, in terms of his personal timeline, hasn't happened yet.
Pg 40 "The Sultan of the Tashwari is one of our major sponsors - the whole university is only here on his sufferance." Not quite what it said in Oh No It Isn't!, where the Sultan was the person who founded the university, but probably close enough.
Pg 42 "Well, I did have a vacation on the Eye of Orion planned." The Doctor visited this location in The Five Doctors.
Pg 43 "After a second, the import of its words registered with Emile. It knows that I was in a cult." Emile's escape from his strongly religious father was something about which we learned in Beyond the Sun.
Benny briefly mentions her ex-husband, Jason Kane. (Death and Diplomacy et al.)
Pg 50 "You weren't friends with !Ci!ci-tel and WiRgo!xu were you?" Walking to Babylon.
Pg 59 "This area is known locally as 'the roof of the world', a moniker shared by primary geological formations on 8,734 other planets known to the Grel." Not to mention the first episode of long-missing and much sought-after Doctor Who story Marco Polo.
Pg 101 "Clarence examined the holo-footage of the starship in flight, elegant and frighteningly powerful as it spun in an intricate mechanical dance." This is the !C-Mel, Clarence's original form, from The Also People.
Sara!qava, from The Also People, makes an appearance here. He still has lots of children and still lives in iSantiJeni, both also from that book.
Pg 102 "The House harrumphed bad-temperedly." Sentient Houses are, unsurprisingly by now, also from The Also People.
Pg 111 "He knew that Sara!qava and Bernice were friends, and that they had met on Bernice's first visit to the Worldsphere." The Also People, yet again.
Pg 113 "It's an old myth about the destruction of worlds. Worlds destroyed by something called the Shiva: a threat without substance that exists within." This came up in Another Girl, Another Planet. It's not entirely clear whether this is a red herring, something that didn't come off or whether the Shiva and the gods of this story are supposed to be one and the same.
Pg 145 "The Church of the Grey was founded early in the twenty-first century. It was born on the internet, out of anarchy and paranoia that thrived there..." I just found this really funny, but I suspect it refers to a lot of the mild-mannered, polite and always courteous discussions to be found on rec.arts.drwho around the time this book was being written.
Pg 150 "Another trooper leapt in before Renee could reply. 'No! Han't you been listening? He said in a strong Arcturan accent." Arcturans were first seen in The Curse of Peladon. I'm struggling to imagine them as troopers, however, given their design in that story.
Pg 163 "An earring in the shape of a turtle made out of dwarf-star alloy." The turtle has been symbolic in a number of Kate Orman stories, most recently Walking to Babylon. Dwarf-star alloy comes from Warriors' Gate and is ridiculously heavy, making an earring made of the stuff somewhat impractical.
Pg 167 "At its centre stood a solid oak table, on which was perched a bowl of suspicious yellow dip." God provides this dip for all the parties held by the People, as established in The Also People. No one ever eats it.
Pg 192 "He'd always imagined his death would be something he would be given a chance to come to terms with. Not like this. No so, so fucking unplanned." What's interesting about this is that Rebecca Levene, as editor of the NAs is the person who removed gratuitous swearing from the line. It's ironic then, in her first freelance book for said line, that she reverses her own policy, and more than once.
Pg 204 "Shemda turned with difficulty to look straight at Bernice. She saw the pain in his eyes. 'I believe in her.' Bernice didn't know whether to laugh or cry." This rather nice moment has vague similarities to, without being a direct reference of, The Curse of Fenric.
Pg 209 "But I don't fear you. And I don't believe in you. Must be a real pisser for you." It's not quite the same, but there's a great deal of similarity here to the Gods of Ragnarok from The Greatest Show in the Galaxy, where belief also sustains the evil people, as well as irreverent behaviour helping to stop them. I don't think it's direct, but even the fact, as mentioned earlier, that this is called Operation Ragnarok makes me think that there's something similar in the zeitgeist.
Pg 216 "Maa'lon gently ran His hands across John's open chest to cheers from the faithful. 'And those hearts look just fit to burst.'" The closest that the book can manage to coming right out with it and saying that John is a Time Lord.
Pg 220 "He met her too-blue eyes, for the first time hiding nothing from her: neither what he felt nor who he was. He saw her eyes widen in shock and for a second she rocked forward on the balls of her feet, as if she was going to come to him." This is not dissimilar to something that the Doctor did in Sky Pirates!
Pg 224 "I thought I'd gone beyond menaces from the dawn of time. Not my scene any more. Been there, done that. More of a nuts and bolts girl now; trying to stay on the human scale." A reference to the style of many of the Who NAs and how they had changed when Benny became the star of the line.
"And, if it looked like he'd survived, they'd just line up and kill him again. And again. Until the job was really done." A reference to the fact that Braxiatel is a Time Lord, and would thus regenerate upon death.
Pg 227 "The figure approaching them looked absurdly like the dark-eyed, oval-headed alien abductor of twentieth-century Earth folklore. It was an image, Braxiatel knew, which once adorned a thousand T-shirts." Whilst this is a clear and direct reference to The X-Files.
Pg 236 "The wild psi gene that's found in your race but never in mine." The basis of the Psi-Powers arc in earlier new adventures, with the strongest reference here being to SLEEPY.
"And then there are the Also People." The Also People.
Pg 241 "Tell me, Elspeth, do you still believe?" The cliffhanger ending of Emile being infected with the belief, and leaving the planet thus breaching the quarantine, will be resolved in The Mary-Sue Extrusion.
OLD FRIENDS AND OLD ENEMIES
Emile Mars-Smith, originally from Beyond the Sun.
The cigarette-smoking man from Another Girl, Another Planet, here named (almost certainly inaccurately) John. He appears to be a Time Lord. He probably dies, but you never know when regeneration is a possibility.
The Sultan of the Tashwari, from Oh No It Isn't!
Sara!qava, from The Also People, now a man.
God, also from The Also People
NEW FRIENDS AND NEW ENEMIES
The Very Reverend James Harker, from the Department of Comparative Religion.
Elspeth, from Tyler's Folly, a friend of Emile's.
Fec and Kalten, paramedics.
Three Grel arrive, but only two survive: the not very nice Demka and the simply delightful Shemda.
Various Hut'eri, including little Si'tan, Tan'a, Ham'tha, Bree'tha, Be'tha, Kor'no and Sha'tah.
The god Maa'lon, in various aspects and guises.
The goddess Anoouki, in her three tiny incarnations.
The cigarette-smoking man's secretary.
Adnan, dark-skinned, light-haired, gorgeous and relatively evil.
An imp in a green hat, which it wears at a jaunty angle.
Safety Officer Colin Hay.
Captain Lorna Stewart.
Professor Travis, Dr Jalal and Dr Curtis, from the university.
- Pg 20 "And he's had the good sense not to give up drinking for Lent." Benny, however, has done so. Lent is traditionally February/March time, though, and the last book, Beige Planet Mars, was specifically set in June. This feels like a very long gap in Benny's timeline.
- Pg 49 "The drone's mat-black body faded into the background." That's more usually written 'matt black', meaning 'non-reflective'.
- Pg 72 "Typical, she hadn't had a drink for weeks (the one Virgin Mary, she felt, didn't count, as that had been an emergency measure)." Actually, she still hasn't had a drink for weeks, as a Virgin Mary is a Bloody Mary without any alcohol, hence 'virgin'.
- Pg 129 "The two figures differed widely in height. One was clearly Hut'eri in origin, short and dark [...] In his left hand he carried a bright spike of metal, about three metres high, tipped with a lethal collection of golden barbs." That's got to be the most impractical and useless weapon in history, being, presumably, about twice the height of the guy carrying it (and the Hut'eri are frequently described as short). It's awkward at best and probably more lethal to its owner than anyone whom he might be attacking at worst.
- Pg 169 "'I am, yes,' Braxiatel confirmed. I'm looking for her to get her out of this mess I've got her into. I'm wondering if she's going to forgive me.'" This bit starts out like it's internal monologue, but then ends with a speech mark. So is he speaking or not?
PLUGGING THE HOLES [Fan-wank theorizing of how to fix continuity cock-ups]
- Maybe there really is a very long gap in Benny's timeline here. Alternatively, Lent is now at a different point in the calendar, or Lent on Dellah is at a different time.
- It's a different shade of black, specifically developed by the People. To humans, it looks very similar indeed to matt black, but to the People there's a world of difference.
- On Dellah, it's massively alcoholic. So being a virgin doesn't mean what it used to.
- Not really thought-through, this one. Presumably it's ceremonial, but it's still a ludicrous idea to take a weapon twice your own height onto a battlefield.
- It's unclear, as the next line could be taken as a response to what he may have said or not. Let's just say he mumbled it, and leave it there.
FEATURED ALIEN RACES
There are plenty, some of whom are unnamed and barely described, so I probably haven't caught everything here, but there's definitely:
At least two Pakhar.
The Hut'eri: short, ochre-skinned humanoids with rough, scaly skin.
A Cham'di, who are apparently a race of people who lack natural rhythm.
A diminutive, chitinous insectoid with truly evil eyes.
A sentient ship (or, rather, it's representative drone).
Tashwari. In Oh No It Isn't!, they had tails and three eyes. Here we have orange scales added to the mix. Getting harder to picture, isn't it?
Gh'see, which are small, goat-like animals.
The N'a'm'thuli. Not pleasant.
A spindly, translucent-skinned being.
The gods of the People, mildly telepathic and trapped beneath the surface of Dellah. They are parasitic, requiring belief to function, although belief in what is irrelevant.
An Earth Reptile (that's Silurian to you).
A blue-skinned Maryan.
The Hedrai, short, reptilian humanoids with no noses and beak-shaped mouths.
At least two Time Lords.
The Worldsphere of the People, including the moon of Whynot and its market in LeftEye, iSantiJeni and the mind of God.
Dellah, including the spaceport, the Witch and Whirlwind, the University, the Sultan's Palace, Tal'een, the plain of the N'a'm'thuli, the Lake of Ortule, the Arcanate of Hedra and somewhere unnamed in the Dellahan hinterland.
In orbit, leaving Dellah.
IN SUMMARY - Anthony Wilson
I really enjoyed this. It's not as apocalyptic as I think it's trying to be, but the characters are great, especially Shemda, the thoughtful Grel. The basic principle of the plot - how proof in your gods can be a very dangerous thing indeed - is also fantastic. There's a slight problem in the middle third of the book that Benny spending days running away from a pursuing army as the authors move the rest of the plot into position around her, but it doesn't really spoil it. That the Church of the Grey, with its inbuilt self-doubt in its own system of belief, would prove a solution to the problem of the gods was obvious, but it's done so cleverly anyway that you just have to applaud it. That the book ends with an evacuation and not a victory is great too. And did I mention how brilliant Shemda is?