Book Club: Cat's Cradle: Time's Crucible

Time for another book! We are going to read together Cat’s Cradle: Time’s Crucible. The start of a brand new arc of books!

Please discuss below - no need to finish it first, discuss as you go along but please add spoiler tags for anything that could be considered a spoiler!

If you’ve previously read the book and want to join in the discussion, that’s great too!

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I have tried to start reading this about two times during the last month but have found it hard to get invested and lost interest in just like the first chapter. Will try again and hopefully it will grab me that time.


I know exactly what you mean.
This book is Marc Platt at his most Marc Platt-ish, I have read it three times in total and never quite know what to make of it :slightly_smiling_face:


I started reading two days ago. I have read 15 chapters and I agree - I have no idea what’s going on and find it hard to focus on the story. I don’t know whether I can finish this.


I really struggled with this book. There are many aspects I like about it, but it is also needlessly unclear and dull at times. I genuinely think I may reread it in 10 years and love it, but at the moment I really don’t like it. I wish I could, but I just don’t. 2/10 from me.


For me the issue with this book is that Marc Platt creates a narrative that requires you to piece the storyline together by after-rationalisation. When it comes down to it is a very straightforward plot but told in a way that basically dilutes the story to appear more “cerebral” for lack of a better word.

I love Ghost Light, but even that is on the cusp of just being Marc Platt emulating Luke Rattigan in the Poison Sky by saying “I’m cleverer that you”, when really there is nothing more than a short story’s worth of plot in here.

I like that the story focuses a bit on Ace though, and Gallifrey lore is always fun for me, though I am still not on team Looms

A 1,5/5 :star: is all I can give it.
I will say that I enjoy the other two Cat’s Cradle books more than this one. :slightly_smiling_face:


I was hoping that you guys would say that it gets better and to keep going…

I will give it another go but I am not excited about it.


That only works for K9 :wink:


It took me so long to geth through a majority of the book, but I got through the last few chapters fairly quick, but I feel that was more because I knew the blessed relief of finishing the book was at hand, more so than an uptick in quality.


I quite liked it. I like the concepts and imagery, and the more “cerebral” structure

I always have a harder time describing why I like something than I describing why I don’t, so I’m just going to say that this really worked for me. I’ll direct anyone who’s curious to my intro post/Devil’s Chord review, where I explain in more detail what I like/look for in a doctor who story, because I feel like if I keep going here I’ll just end up repeating myself from that


I like Time’s Crucible a lot more than most people. Weird, high concept sci-fi with a good concept always hits home with me and the surreal, Salvador Dalian landscape of the SARDIT was just really cool. Plus, the Process were a brilliant antagonist.

I will admit it was far, far too convoluted and in terms of the Ancient Gallifrey stuff, the part of the book’s a bit foggy for me so I might have to reread it at some point to see what the fuss is all about.



I’ll never have the full experience of going into this book completely blind, so what my thoughts would have been had that happened will be forever lost to ahistory. Before I ever read the book, or any of the VNAs, I got a part in Security Kitchen Productions’ audio adaptation, read much of the script, and so knew the plot of Time’s Crucible well before I read it.

When I did read it, I enjoyed some of the prose, thought the world created for it was very interesting, and liked all the ancient Gallifrey stuff, but felt the characterizations of the Doctor and Ace were a big step backwards after Timewyrm: Revelation, which I found a bit frustrating. I also didn’t have the interest to find out what was going on in it while reading, so it felt like a bit of a slog.

I ended up putting it very low in my rankings initially, as even Genesys and Exodus, my least favorites of the first ten New Adventures and books which imo have far more issues than this one does, were new books to me and so had a sense of discovery I didn’t really get from this one. However, now, looking back on this book and remembering moments, images, chapters, and words from it, I find myself looking at them mostly positively. I think it definitely suffers from weaker and shallower characterization of the leads than the books before and after it, but I don’t think it’s bad at all. I’ll probably enjoy it on a reread quite a bit. I’m feeling like a solid 7/10.


I gave it another go but chose to listen to a fan-made audiobook this time (just needed to do something new). I am 5 chapters in and I have started to enjoy it a little. I might be able to thru this :grinning:

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This here is the problem I have. I don’t like Ghost Light because I can’t understand it and I suspected going in that this book might be similar. There’s nothing I find as frustrating as a book I cannot grasp or struggle to get through. That being said, I’m going to try to finish this one, but I can already tell that I’m going to give it a low rating. The tale end of the book has to be amazing to save it!

I was slightly worried that the other two books would be similar, but this sounds reassuring to me:)


What annoys me about Ghost Light is that the story can be told like this:

  • Alien entity comes to Earth and does experiments with evolution - that’s it!

It is just told in such a convoluted manner that you, I at least, think that there surely must be a much deeper story, and I am yet to be convinced that such a narrative exists in that story.

But it does have an excellent soundtrack.

And a following that will not accept criticism of it because it has Sophie Aldred in a tuxedo :stuck_out_tongue_winking_eye:


I do get your point about Ghost Light, but here’s a summary of Heaven Sent: “The Doctor does the same few things over and over on his own for millions of years”. Sounds pretty boring, but people seem to like it. Ghost Light isn’t in that league, but I enjoy spending time there. I’m lucky.

I think if you go into a Marc Platt story with your main focus being on plot, you are likely to be disappointed. Here’s a review of Cat’s Cradle I wrote when I first read it which talks about this a bit more. It’s incomplete - there’s a note about the Wizard of Oz at the end, so presumably I was going to say something about that, but it’s too long ago and I’ve no idea how the review was going to end. I read the book after Timewyrm: Exodus, because someone recommended that order. It suffers coming just after Timewyrm: Revelation, because it’s a similar style of “rad” novel and Paul Cornell’s debut is one of the best things ever (if that style is your thing). Here we go:

Reading this, I found myself considering the work of Marc Platt in general. Like Paul Magrs but unlike Justin Richards, to pick a couple of prolific examples, he has a very particular style and set of interests. This was his second published work for the franchise, the first being the TV serial Ghost Light (which seems a long time ago now but was less than two and a half years in the past when Time’s Crucible came out). He only produced one more original novel, Lungbarrow, although he also wrote the adaptations of Ghost Light and the fan video Downtime. (Lungbarrow was available for free on the BBC website for some years, and as a result was one of the first Doctor Who books I read. This was, in retrospect, not a good way to encounter it!) Most of Platt’s work has been released on audio by Big Finish, although he’s also written about a dozen short stories and one comic (which I am guessing ties into this book, given the title, Cat Litter, and the fact that it was published later in 1992).

I mentioned style. Platt is very much a worldbuilding writer, with characterisation a secondary interest and plot falling far behind. When the plot emerges naturally out of the world - Spare Parts, for instance - this creates a wonderful sense of coherence. When it doesn’t, he usually tacks on something to keep things moving, but it is clear that this is not where his interest lies. It’s not something I’m particularly focused on, either; so sometimes a story with a weak or generic plot can still resonate with me. I enjoy exploring Platt’s landscapes.

This book is a case in point. Most of the action consists of the Doctor and Ace wandering around the strange world in which they find themselves, trying to figure out what’s going on and how to improve things. Yes, there’s a couple of menaces to face, but even here the threat feels less important than the nature of the antagonists. Technically the resolution is unsatisfying, but it scarcely matters when the imagery and revelations are so arresting. It’s reflected in the prose as well, which is richer than the first two novels in its use of vocabulary and in its structure; this on its own makes for a more enjoyable read.

I also mentioned that there are certain things that Platt is interested in, that he keeps coming back to. Really, they all can be summed up as the mythology of the Doctor Who universe. He has done more than anyone to flesh out the history and nature of Gallifrey and of the Doctor’s life pre-An Unearthly Child, and when he’s not doing that he often looks at the lives of other companions, especially Susan - he was the obvious choice to write the 50th Anniversary Companion Chronicle The Beginning - or expands on various pre-existing aliens’ cultures. It’s not something I want from every story I read or hear, but he does it well and there’s a fannish part of me that responds.

Here is where he lays the groundwork for Lungbarrow. We see a lot of the early days of Gallifrey’s experiments into time travel - including the Pythia’s curse that leads to the controversial matter of later Gallifreyans being loomed instead of born, a little of the rise of Rassilon, and the introduction of the Other.

This is a huge step up from the first two Timewyrm novels!

Date: 20th February 1992
ISBN: 0-426-20365-8

Mine: 7/10.
2013 Gallifrey Base Non-Dynamic Rankings: 6.66, 32nd out of 61 New Adventures, 446th out of 883 overall.


Seconded!!! :smiling_face_with_three_hearts::smiling_face_with_three_hearts::smiling_face_with_three_hearts:


I didn’t say that I was a part of that following :wink: But that is essentially the best part of that story :grin:


:sweat_smile: I mean I see a mention of this and just black.out a little:

For the record though, I’ve never really understood Ghost Light, and though I generally like Marc Platt’s writing, I always have to look up wtf actually happens in any given one of his stories because they confuse me too much


I am definitely a “plot focused” kind of person, which is also why a story such as 73 Yards from this season just doesn’t really do anything for me or indeed the same with The End of Time.

There are great moments in Ghost Light, but what kind of carries the story along is more a focus on atmosphere and emotional response than on the narrative of the story (if that makes sense :slightly_smiling_face: ). And that is very much the style of Marc Platt generally from what I have seen, read and heard of his work. But I guess I kind of have to hit the right mood for me to really enjoy Ghost Light or Time’s Crucible :slightly_smiling_face: