Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Doctor Who Book Reviews

I've been spending so much time *writing* fiction of late (I began a series of Tenth Doctor/Martha Jones short stories last week - I didn't mean to, of course - a plot bunny came bounding into my head and wouldn't leave !), that I've not been writing any reviews of the fiction I read, and although I've just re-read Linda Buckley-Archer's Gideon the Cutpurse and The Tar Man (still brilliant on a third and second reading, respectively), I owe you reviews of about six other books. So I'm combining quick reviews of the latest three Doctor Who novels featuring the Tenth Doctor and Doctor-in-Training Martha Jones. All these books feature the Doctor and Martha Jones as played by David Tennant and Freema Agyeman in the acclaimed hit series from BBC Television.

The first of these is Stephen Cole's Sting of the Zygons which brings back Tenth Doctor actor David Tennant's favourite monster from the Classic Who series, the Zygons.

The TARDIS lands the Doctor and Martha in the Lake District in 1909 (although he'd been aiming for Russia), where a small village is being terrorised by a gigantic scaly monster. All the local huntsman are taking part in the search for the elusive "Beast of Westmorland" as it's been dubbed, and a number of explorers, naturalists and hunters from across the country are descending on the area. Even King Edward VII is on the way to join the search, offering a Knighthood for whoever can find the Beast. But there is a more sinister presence at work in the Lakes than a mere monster on the rampage, and the Doctor and Martha soon become embroiled in the plans of an old and terrifying enemy of the Doctor's. As the hunters find themselves becoming the hunted, a desperate battle of wits begins - with the future of the entire world at stake.

There is also an Audiobook available, read by Reggie Yates (who played Martha's younger brother Leo in the TV series).

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The second book is Jacqueline Rayner's The Last Dodo in which the Doctor and Martha set off in search of a real live dodo and find themselves transported by the TARDIS to the mysterious Museum of the Last Ones (MotLO). In the Earth section there they discover one specimen of every extinct creature up to the present day; there are billions of them, from the tiniest insect to the biggest dinosaur, all of them still alive, kept in suspended animation. The Museum's only job is to preserve each species by collecting the last surviving specimen of wach creature from all over the universe.

This book is particularly interesting in that Rayner does something that "Doctor Who" authors seldom dare to do - she writes sections of the story from Martha's perspective, in the past tense. Not only does this make a refreshing change, style-wise but it's also fascinating to experience first-hand Martha's thoughts about events, including an accidental genocide that she perpetrates (which, fortunately, the Doctor is able to reverse), as well her larger feelings about the Doctor and their travels together.

Unfortunately these passages have clearly been written with a younger audience in mind so they aren't as detailed as they might have been. Pleasingly whilst Martha's television story arc concentrates a lot on her unrequited feelings for the Doctor, Rayner makes only fleeting references to this in the story. The book also features the amusing device of the "I-Spyder Book of Earth Creatures Guide" which the Doctor gives to Martha before they arrive at the Museum, and which underpins the whole novel in a very humorous Hitch-hiker's Guide To The Galaxy manner.

There is also an Audiobook available, read by Freema Agyeman.

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Martin Day's Wooden Heart features the "Castor", a vast starship which is apparently deserted and has been left drifting slowly in the void of deep space. Martha and the Doctor explore the ship and discover that they may not be alone on board it after all. It appears that someone has survived the disaster that overcame the rest of the crew. The pair try to discover what continues to power the vessel - and why a stretch of wooded countryside has suddenly appeared in the middle of the ship. As they journey through the forest, the Doctor and Martha find a mysterious, fogbound village that is traumatised by some of its children going missin and by tales of its own destruction. The Doctor and Martha find themselves in separate races against time to save the village, Martha from with the forest and the Doctor from outside in the ship.

There is also an Audiobook available, read by Adjoa Andoh (who played Martha's mother Francine in the TV series)

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