Quirk Books mash-ups in which a public domain classic is rewritten to include some fantasy elements. They brought us Android Karenina. Here’s War & Peace & Doctor Who, as lovers across time are caught up war zones and only the Time Lord can reunite them (as well as zero in on a locket which may offer some clue as to what Sabbath’s end game might be).
Obviously, Simon A. Forward’s Emotional Chemistry’s only influenced by Russian literature rather than simply quoting from it, but he makes a good stab at offering epic sweep across the novel's much shorter duration than those old literary doorsteps and to an extent that does make it somewhat as difficult to read. With dozens of characters introduced (just as those old novels do) and across three or four time zones (as you might expect in science fiction) it’s not always possible initially to get a fix on whose landscape is whose (and I will admit to having to refer to a synopsis from the Wikipedia) (sorry Simon).
But after about eighty pages, the story begins to settle down and it slowly becomes clear that the keeper of the locket, Dusha, a girl in the 1812s is somehow being replicated across time as late as 5000 and that a general from that time is desperate to become united with this earlier version. The Doctor, having investigated a painting of the girl with magical properties and stumbling into to these vortex crossed lovers finds himself agreeing to aid the couple because somehow he’s known to them, though is memory, senses and their recollections suggest its not the current version of him that was involved (too young apparently).
Fitz, finds himself subconsciously frogmarched into the offices of dodgy businessman Garudin, who has technology with the properties of the door at the back of the filing cabinet on Floor 7½ in Being John Malkovich to allow a person to astrally project themselves back in time and inhabit the body of some historical figure, which he’s using to stalk Dusha via a friend of the family. He’s the book’s main antagonist, a viscous puppet master attempting to control the past for his own lustful ends and there’s perhaps some thematic interest here about how some historians have the same tendency, vicariously twisting the past to suit their own thesis.
Meanwhile Trix, whose becoming an increasingly attractive creation is on the trail of the locket in various time zones, utilising her abilities to slip into a variety of situations from art dealer to ambassadorial assistant. It’s through her we’re introduced to Aphrodite, a goddess with the grace of Galadriel, and my favourite sequences in the book as Trix experiences the world of said goddess, the kind of hyperglycemic paradise that might appear in a Tarsem Singh or Vincent Ward film with its endless pools and views of the whole of creation. As you might imagine Fitz is quite taken with her. I was too.
There's some fun continuity in here. The war in the future is actually the conflict described by Magnus Greel in The Talons of Weng-Chiang and although this isn't a direct sequel, it's a rare occasion for the EDAs, particular post-amnesia of specifically placing the story within a recognisable Whoniverse. As the Doctor Who Guide notes also, "though she is not referred to in this novel, one of the refugees from Napoleon’s forces is a merchant’s daughter who will become Ileana de Santos, leader of a werewolf clan which the Fifth Doctor encounters in (the audio) Loups-Garoux."
All of which dovetails nicely into the kind of love conquers all conclusion sometimes beloved of the televised revival (cf, Evolution of the Daleks) in which the Doctor bends creation to keep a couple together (partly because creation will itself bend if they’re kept apart). If nothing else, the book’s spurned me towards finally reading some Tolstoy once this and other projects are completed. Apparently reading these great books on a Kindle seems like less of a challenge. Presumably because a volume which is typically a foot thick is reduced to a slab of light plastic, not quite as graceful, but lighter in the hand.