Wildthyme Beyond is the latest in the series of stories following transtemporal traveller Iris Wildthyme. With her gin bottle in one hand, and a fag in the other, she and her companion Panda travel through the dimensions in her trusty Celestial Omnibus.
In this her second full length novel, Iris and her travelling companions are separated on the strange world of Hyspero. Whilst Iris and Panda have a nightmarish subterrean adventure, her other companions are captured by the all seeing Scarlett Empress. They must reunite to stop mad poet Marvelle from opening the Ringpull, the gateway to the next universe. Meanwhile, a couple of dimensions to the left, Iris’s fans are getting very concerned at the direction her adventures are taking…
Fresh from writing audio adventures for Tom Baker’s Doctor Who, Paul Magrs doesn’t let up the pace in a fast moving and riotous book. With his iconic and flamboyant Iris at the helm, Wildthyme Beyond is packed with some of the most outrageous ideas in fiction – and it is fantastic. From talking vending machines to obsessive fanboys, the cast of colourful characters enrich the plot even further.
Peppered with characters from nearly every single book Magrs has ever written, a large and colourful cast of characters emerge. Each has their own distinct voice and personality, and the ensemble moves the story beyond it being just an Iris story. Art Critic Panda is tested to his limit continuing to be characteristically waspish and heroic in equal measure. Utterly sublime villain Anthony Marvelle returns with his talking henceman, Missy – who also happens to be a poodle. Marvelle in particular feels like he has walked out of those ITC series of the 60’s and straight into the novel. With his amusing murmur murmur tic on everything he says, you almost root more for him than for Iris! I do hope this isn’t the last we’ve seen of him.
The other characters provide able support, and in one case an awful lot more that is key to the plot. Barbra, the talking vending machine in particular is a character I enjoyed listening to. Her motherly nature manifesting itself in the right time to vend a can of pop or packet of crisps providing much light relief when times are getting tough. This ensemble of characters doesn’t, however, prevent Iris shining through in her toughest adventure to date. Listeners of the Big Finish series or regular followers of Iris might not be able to shake the image of Katy Manning from their heads, but it easy to imagine her, or one of the other incarnations of Iris tramping over the sands of Hyspero.
You don’t need to be aware of the past that Iris and her team have, obviously it embellishes the novel further if you do, but even if you don’t there is a fast paced adventure story to be had here. Told over several universes and across multiple timeframes, the seemingly unconnected threads start by the mid point of the novel to come together. The denouement is ultimately very satisfying. To say much more would be to spoil it, but a very satisfied smile came over my face when events started to come together. You also get further tidbits of Iris’s backstory fed you one morsel at a time giving us a tantalising glimpse deeper into Iris’s history.
Magrs’ prose is lyrical and evocative. from the rainy streets of Darlington to the sun drenched sands of Hyspero, locations are vividly brought to life. Magrs has an eye for detail, and the little details embellish the locations splendidly. His characters are witty, amusing and endearing. There is a lot of comedy to be had in Wildthyme Beyond, certainly some bits of it nearly had me spitting my tea over my Kindle in laughter! The chapter concerning fan forums reactions to where Iris adventures sit within their own ‘canon’ is particularly hilarious, I wonder what other science fiction properly that might be a parody of…?!
Even if you haven’t come across Iris before,Wildthyme Beyond is highly recommended for anyone who likes their slice of adventure with a twist of humour. Witty, clever and betraying an immense imagination, this is another winner for the criminally underrated Paul Magrs.
The Fiction Stroker gives Wildthyme Beyond five strokes out of five: