Skip to main content

Posts for May 5, 2008

British Summer Time, by Paul Cornell (Books 2008, 4)

Paul Cornell wrote some of my favourite episodes of Doctor Who‘s recent years: ‘Father’s Day’, and the ‘Human Nature’/’Family of Blood’ two-parter. After the latter, I downloaded and read the ebook of his original novel (on which the episodes were based). So I came to this with some knowledge of his writing.

But not with so much knowledge of his religious beliefs. I had some sense — from reading his blog, presumably — that he was religious, at least in a vague, Church-of-Englandy sort of way; but I didn’t expect, on picking this up, that it would have such a religious heart (or maybe ‘soul’ would be more appropriate).

Though I’m not sure that the Archbishop of Canterbury would quite approve — and I’m absolutely sure the Pope would not — of the theology.

It’s a fine story of a woman who can read the patterns of the world around her, a space pilot from the future (but is it ‘our’ future?), a disembodied head, and four mysterious ‘golden men’, who might be angels, might be the biblical four horsemen of the apocalypse, or might be something else. It’s an easy read, and I recommend it.

But does the religion get in the way of the story? No, not really; though it was something of a distraction at times for this atheist. It’s by no means preachy; indeed, you could argue that the religious interpretation of the events in the story is a misinterpretation. Though since that interpretation is the author’s, that would depend on where you stand on the whole postmodern thing about the author being irrelevant, and the reader entering into a dialogue with the text.

The question for me on a personal note is, would I have approached it differently - or read it at all - if I had known about the religious content before I started it?

The answer is, I would have approached it differently. And, if I hadn’t known the author’s work, I probably wouldn’t have picked it up at all.

By saying that, I’m convicting myself of being likely to prejudge religiously-inspired fiction; well, yes, guilty as charged. Just as I’m likely to prejudge romantic fiction, literary fiction, heroic fantasy, and so on. We don’t approach anything in a vacuum, after all. Our past experiences, our expectations, colour our understanding and appreciation of any art. And we all have our preferences.

Still, if I had known, and rejected this, I’d have missed out on something worthwhile. So that’s worth bearing in mind.