Monday, 21 March 2011

Enter Wildthyme - Paul Magrs (snowbooks, 2011)

By now you'd think that reading a new Iris story would be like pulling on comfy slippers. After all, it was back in the last millennium that I first came across the character shining out of the pages of a Doctor Who book like the sudden beautiful view across the hills that you sometimes get on the road to somewhere dreary. And since then there have been novels, short story collections and audios, some of them even written and published by me. You'd think I'd be bored.

But not at a bit of it, as this new Iris novel proves. True, Iris has recreated herself again, but that's part of the charm of the character as well as the perfect way to keep things fresh. Paul Magrs is incapable of writing dully and Iris, Panda and the Bus are the ideal foil for him, even more I think than his other fabulously mad series with Brenda and Effie. Actually, it's a bit surprising that Brenda doesn't make an appearance in here; almost everyone else does as Magrs pulls off the clever trick of introducing a plethora of new characters to first time Iris readers, while making their various introductions intetesting for more seasoned dabblers in the Magrs' universe.

Like one of those Hollywood spectaculars of the fifties and sixties, if you name a star from a previous Magrs' book he or she probably makes an appearance (even if only in cameo) in Enter Wildthyme. Unlike those movies, however, I was never left thinking 'why the hell is John Wayne playing a Roman centurion?' Here everyone has a part to play and so, rather than over-filled or gratuitous, this book feels like a party to which we've all been invited by Iris, the reader included.

It'd be a bit pointless to go into detail about everyone who turns up and what role they play, but I can't let pass the opportunity to mention that Barbra the Vending Machine from Sick Building and 'The Dreadful Flap' returns in all her stale crisped glory. Even if the rest of the book were rubbish (which it isn't - it's great!) it'd be worth buying this just to see Barbra on the Bus.

They should invite Paul Magrs to write for Doctor Who on telly. This is the one sort of story missing from the series since it came back, a proper, mental, funny, sometimes sad, often daft extravaganza.

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