Sunday, 7 August 2011

Everything Picture #5 Time Lord Redux

Once more unto the breach in my tragically completist quest to own all the Doctor Who novels... these are the third batch to feature Matt Smith's Doctor and his companions.

James Goss proved himself thoroughly on the Torchwood novel series before being allowed a go at the parent series. He's responsible for my favourite books in the series, making Torchwood in print as witty and thrilling as it only rarely is on screen. Dead of Winter is his second published Doctor Who story after an entry in one of Big Finish's Short Trips collection, Snapshots. It's set off the beaten historical track and, to a degree, prefigures the Gangers two parter from the 2011 season. The humour's only slightly toned down, but it's as clever a tale as you'd expect from Goss with what initially seems like mischaracterisation being a deftly executed plot point. And it also has a heartbreaking twist in relation to one of the narrators along with some wonderfully spooky imagery. Early spoiler - it's my favourite of the batch.

Una McCormack returns with her second Who book, The Way Through The Woods, following last year's The King's Dragon. It was a promising debut, with a fine premise perhaps only falling apart slightly when explanations were needed. The same problem rears its head here - the set up is fabulous, with inexplicable disappearances linked to an area everyone mysteriously avoids. The scenes with the Doctor in the police station are beautifully executed, as perfect a depiction of Matt Smith as you'll find in print. The trouble is whilst they're funny, they only serve to stop the Doctor from getting to the heart of the trouble early as it'd be a much shorter book if he wasn't somehow held back from the action. Again though, it's the prosaic SF explanation for what's going on that lets things down a little. That aside, it's another good, if not quite outstanding, effort from McCormack.

Hunter's Moon is the sort of Doctor Who adventure I don't tend to have much time for. Doctor Who can do pure SF, much as it can do historical drama, loves stories, high fantasy and pretty much anything else. It just tends to fall down when writers interpret the show as straight SF. I've not heard Finch's other Doctor Who story, an adaptation of his father's unmade script Leviathan, so I don't know if it's a misconception that dogs other stories. Hunter's Moon is certainly competently executed and exciting enough (though personally I think it would've been more effective had the prologue and first chapter been swapped round), with effective bad guys who might well have been memorable on TV if cast well. As I say though, it's a type of Doctor Who story I don't find overly engaging, having little to mark it out from other stories set on Earthlike colonies. But if you do like Who as an out and out SF show, it's perfect for you.

Overall then, a nicely balanced set of books covering historical, contemporary and SF settings and maintaining a good standard for Eleveth Doctor books. Trouble is, the next batch are a mere two months away after this release, so there's little time to savour them. Unless, of course, you've got a time machine.

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