The Book of the Still
Roots: There are references to Buffalo Bill, The Addams Family, Nosferatu, The Scarlet Pimpernel, Byron, Steve Austin, Muse, The Man from U.N.C.L.E., Hammer Horror, Shakespeare, Boys Own, Moses, Adam and the Ants Prince Charming, Readers Digest, Enid Blyton, Scooby Doo, Pet Sounds, Sean Connery, Frankenstein, Baldrick, Old Holburn tobacco, Noel Coward, Alexei Sayle, I Was a Teenage Werewolf, Goldfinger, Jeffrey Archer, Tracey Emin, Surf washing powder, The Fantastic Four, and Swampie. At Fitz's suggestion, he and Carmodi sign into the hotel on Antimasque under the names Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers. Fitz quotes from The Wizard of Oz (Theres no place like home).
Technobabble: The Doctor explains the Minus Room as 'Null interface space. Abstract of reality. A lens of unreality around which reality is bent. It refracts real time and space and allows you not to be affected by what is going on around you.'
Super-string taffeta is made by running a thread through the substratum of the universe to produce a material that is one part fabric and nine-tenths base-line reality.
Exotic particles that accrue in the bodies of time travellers include Bockatrons, harmonium, and Artron Oxidants. Fitz is steeped in second-hand time travel particles from the Doctor, a result of chronmosis.
Dialogue Disasters: 'I'm barking mad!'
Dialogue Triumphs: 'I don't mean to be rude; I'm just not going out of my way to be polite.'
Rhian's guess at what TARDIS is an acronym of is 'Time Acronym, Really Dreary - Important Sounding.'
'You don't think the entire population of Antimasque left on those ships just now do you? They are just the inhabitants of the pleasure zone. There's a whole ecology to save, a world of infinite beauty and indigenous species. I can't just leave them because I can.'
'I did what I had to do, Carmodi. It's what I always do. Sometimes I wish I didn't have to stand where I stand either.'
Continuity: The Book of the Still is ten inches square, and appears to be approximately one hundred pages thick. The pages are made from super-string taffeta. The cover appears to be made of grey leather and the edges are embossed with gold. The words on the cover apparently translate themselves for the reader. The Book exists as a lifeline for stranded time travellers, who write their name and location in it and wait to be rescued by time travellers from the future who have read the Book later on. The origins of the Book are unknown, but by 4009AD legends of its existence have existed for approximately one thousand years. The Book has a safety mechanism built into it so that it transports itself to its last safe resting place if it is in danger of being destroyed.
The Unnoticed are black and slimy, smelling of decay. Their thorax is suspended from a gas-filled sack by strips of flesh. Slime from the surface of the balloon and the mouth runs into pouches around the central trunk and then into transparent reservoirs, from which muscular contractions send it back through veins onto the surface of the balloon. They have spindly legs hanging from the trunk, between which is suspended an open stomach sac filled with digestive juices. Their slime-slicked fur-covered bodies are infested with needle-jawed worms. Their gas-sacs flash blue with energy, which is possibly a means of communication. Carmodi refers to them as a swarm. The existence of the Unnoticed is a temporal anomaly; because they know they should not exist, they dare not have contact with any other race. They keep no written or oral history because their existence is so precarious, and for the same reason do not study themselves; hence they do not know how they came into existence. They excise any evidence of their existence completely, destroying entire planets if necessary; they have destroyed entire races that they even suspect of developing a legend of their existence. They are nomadic, and live in Tent City, a city of tents made from super-string taffeta, which can withstand the conditions on the surface of a star. They keep a breeding colony of humanoid time-sensitives, which they use as canaries to warn them of any nearby planets with time travel capability or passing time travellers who could threaten their existence.
The technology of the Unnoticed is highly advanced. They use a wave interrupter to disable entire solar systems, which works by stopping any and all waves right down the flow of electrons through a wire. In order to fly through the field it generates without affecting their own systems, they have to generate a resonance corridor. They also use world bombs capable of eradicating all life on a planet, right down to the microbial level, which they use on planets were they existence is known of. Their ship is filled with a lighter-than-air gas to keep it afloat in a planets atmosphere. They are actually created by a temporal paradox; they evolved from the fused together Lebensweltian criminals Darlow, Gimcrack and Svadhisthana, who were thrown millennia back in time by the energy released by the time differential when they make touch one of the Unnoticed (their descendents). The slow release of energy caused by their proximity to the Unnoticed prior to actual physical contact affected reality and caused them to fuse together in the first place. Consequently, the Unnoticed have to destroy themselves in order to ensure that they existed. The Doctor describes this paradox as a predestination bubble.
The Doctor feels uncomfortable on roller coasters (c.f. The Nightmare Fair). He uses karate in a fruitless attempt to escape from captivity whilst on trial on Lebenswelt. He claims to have dreams about being stood naked in front of a class of students. He wears an Il Dottore mask as a disguise at the masked ball on Antimasque. He is a poor dancer, but learns how to Waltz on Antimasque.
Anji wears a t-shirt with "Don't ask me, I'm new here myself" emblazoned on it. She finds an old Tesco receipt stuffed in her Psion wallet for a box of panty-liners, a bottle of Lambrusco, wild mushrooms, pepper sauce mix, and a twelve pack of loo-rolls. She used the mushrooms and pepper sauce mix to cook a steak meal for Dave. Dave once got a job in a television advert, which involved screaming Native American war chants; Anji thought the advert was crap, but the money he earned from it enabled them to buy a DVD player.
Fitz collects a shirt from the big white shirt section of the TARDIS wardrobe. He hates job interviews, especially when his IntroInductions escort agency interview involves an invasive strip-search. He once had the TARDIS make some business cards for him, bearing the legend Fitz Kreiner - Freebooter and Gigolo emblazoned in red velvet. He gets brainwashed by Darlow, Svadhisthana and Gimcrack who treat him with fast-chain memory acids to change his memories and personality so that he loves Carmodi without question, and whilst under this influence intends to marry her. His body eventually metabolises the fast-chain memory acids. Before meeting the Doctor, he never had a girlfriend who could drive. He used to have a Baby Belling cooker in his flat. He once got caught urinating in the Headmaster's aspidistra whilst at school, because of a bet with Smelly Palmer.
The TARDIS provides a guide to Lebenswelt. It has a vault, containing credit chips. The TARDIS no longer has an emergency exit/entrance (see Original Sin). The TARDIS doors automatically swing shut when it is lying horizontally. The Doctor materialises the TARDIS around the Unnoticed's planet-destroying bomb, absorbing the blast; the explosion causes the outer plasmic shell to very briefly rupture and the lantern on top to explode, but the TARDIS survives and repairs itself. The TARDIS creates a Minus Room to protect the Doctor whilst this explosion takes place (see Technobabble). The TARDIS cleans its occupants' clothes whilst they sleep.
Lebenswelt is populated by small, red flying bat-like creatures, which constantly rip each other to shreds. Antimasque is one of the pleasure planets (see The Leisure Hive). It rotates on its axis once every twenty-nine hours. Its native inhabitants appear to be Satyrs. Antimasque is destroyed by the Unnoticed's planet-destroying bomb. Non-linear anthropologist Albrecht spent fourteen years living with the aboriginals on the planet Hej, who have achieved homeostatic time travel. The planet Porconine is uninhabited.Non-human life forms seen here include a large-potted plant, which moves around on suckers.
Links: Fitz happily considers Lebenswelt's lack of clockwork arseholes (Anachrophobia). Rhian inherited money from a great aunt who used to time travel by using powered mirrors, a tongue-in-cheek nod to The Evil of the Daleks. The Doctor tells Rhian about his amnesia and one hundred years spent trapped on Earth (The Burning). When Fitz's memory is returning, he briefly thinks of Compassion, last seen in Escape Velocity.
Location: Lebenswelt, Antimasque, and Tent City on the surface of Earth's Sun, 4009AD.
Future History: Lebenswelt is an Earth colony with a vast abundance of wealth, due to various deals made with Galactinational companies. Its considerable mineral wealth was sold to a Galactinational c3500AD, and the planet became the slice's largest supplier of either thisonium or thatatron. Following the vast increase in wealth of the population, the planet's entire culture devoted itself to decadence. Its main city is also called Lebenswelt. Materials such as gold and platinum are routinely used to make disposal goods. The death penalty exists on Lebenswelt, in the form of a dissolution chamber. Scavenging rubbish, which of course consists largely of precious metals and jewels, is punishable in this fashion. Sirius-One-Bee is another Earth colony. Gand City, referred to by Carmodi, is also possibly an Earth colony.
In 3972, Sirius-One-Bee university press published Albrecht's Of Finders and Seekers - a users guide to being lost in time.
By 4009 there is an Amnesty Intergalactic. TimeCorp offers its workers the opportunity to travel back in time at the end of each working day, so that they can also spend the day with their families; this means that they age a third faster than their relatives every day.
The Bottom Line: Benefiting from great monsters, decent villains, and a witty, assured prose style, The Book of the Still is one of the best BBC Eighth Doctor novels to date. Few authors could successfully carry off a scene in which the Doctor hang-glides onto the surface of the sun in a tent made from the pages of a book, but incredibly Ebbs manages it with ease.