The Blue Angel
Ardent review fans may remember that I really enjoyed The Scarlet Empress, which lead me to expect great things of The Blue Angel. Unfortunately, it turns out that the 'difficult second album' was just that - difficult. Don't get me wrong, there's a lot to like about this novel, it's just not quite executed with the same flair as Scarlet Empress.
The prose flows well, and despite using some of the less common words in the English language, it doesn't suffer from overuse. There's just enough simplicity mixed in with the complicated and the fantastical that we're drawn into another of Magrs' weird and wonderful plots, wanting to know what happens next.
I never quite understood the bit with the Doctor taking the pills though. I think that was yet another attempt at being clever, and almost certainly had something to do with Iris protecting him. Given that the pill taking Doctor bit seems to flit about in time, it can become somewhat confusing. I'm just not convinced that it gels particularly well with the rest of the novel.
As for the main action, it's entertaining, exciting stuff, with the Doctor and Fitz being particularly well portrayed. I'm not sure about Compassion yet, I guess she was true to form, but I can't help thinking she's a bit 'seven of nine', although I'm hoping she's going to develop in future novels.
Since her regeneration, Iris Wildthyme has become a more likeable character. She's still impulsive, still causes trouble, and still has very few manners. However, this appears to be more out of a tendency to get caught up in the moment rather than for devilment, which is a nice progression. Plus Fitz fancies her, so she's a bit more attractive now, which always helps. (I'm giving Fitz the benefit of the doubt in assuming he has taste.)
The other decent cast member is Daedalus, the elephant man. His motivations are explained pretty well, and are intertwined with Iris' story in a manner that produces a couple of 'aha!' moments. It's easy to understand why he's doing what he's doing, even if his actions are disagreeable.
Apart from that, we've got a few cardboard humans and a load of extras, whose personalities are not explained. They just get caught up in events, some intending to gain advantages, some for the glory of their race. All of which is standard fare.
On the subject of extras, is it just me or is the constant use of anthropomorphised aliens wearing a little thin? - lizard race *Check*, pig race *Check*, bat race *Check*, Owl race *Check*, elephant man *Check*, glass men - oh wait, glass men; well, I guess that is something I've not seen before. In fact, the description of the glass men is rather striking. They potter about on wheelchairs with elements of dodgem cars, looking like transparent Davros'. Their entirely visible hearts have faces, which is completely weird. So, it's plus three points for the glass men, minus five for the other lot.
The abrupt ending is something of a surprise. Nothing seems to be resolved, the Doctor doesn't save the day, and there's a strange list of 20 questions as if to say "we couldn't be bothered working out how it all ends, so you lot create your own ending instead." This is both brilliant and irritating in equal measure, as it provokes curiosity and yet feels unfinished. Here's hoping the dangling threads will be resolved in a later EDA.
Review by Tom Hey