Sunday, June 5, 2011

Oh, I Do Like To Be Beside The Seaside

A few days ago I reviewed “The Hounds of Artemis”, a BBC audio-book written by James Goss. I enjoyed it, so much so that I began to investigate what other things he’d written for the franchise. One in particular caught my eye: “Doctor Who: Dead of Winter”. It sounded suitably creepy and, demanding instant gratification, I bought it for my precious, precious Kindle so I could set to straight away. That and its only available as a hardback and Pixies don’t do well with hardbacks (excellent weapons, but too heavy for delicate hands).

Basically, the Doctor and the Ponds crash-land on a beach in the South of France in the 1780s. Only problem is, they can’t really remember who they are and the sanatorium they’ve landed next to shouldn’t exist for another hundred years (give or take). Add to that the fact that the TARDIS has gone missing, there is a dense, clinging, glowing fog and the sea is singing to people and you have a very tidy little mystery on your hands. I really can't say anything more than that without giving the game away, so you'll just have to trust me on this one.

The story is told from several people’s perspective, often in the form of the diary entries so nicely exploited in “Hounds of Artemis”. Mind you, you do have to wonder about the things some people include in a diary (although its not even close to the ludicrously salacious guff that gets included in the official ship’s log in one truly awful steampunk novel I read last year), but it still works very well.

It’s often a big problem with novelisations that the author doesn’t get a handle on the characters so that the portrayals never quite sit comfortably, jarring you out of the action. Once again, though, Goss has captured the characters’ voices really well, so much so that you can tell when things aren’t quite right. There are a couple of nice twists, which you can spot if you’re paying attention, but it doesn’t spoil your enjoyment of the story if you do. There are nods back to the original series and Goss gently plays games with past knowledge regarding the potential source of the mystery. And it is creepy, really, really creepy; in fact, this would have made a cracking TV episode, either of Doctor Who or Sapphire and Steel (for those of us old enough to remember, that should give you a fair idea of just how creepy it is).

The Prof was always a big Doctor Who novel reader, but he pretty much stopped when the reboot started as he found the books too childish. It’s not a problem he’ll have with this one; Goss has the ability to capture the feel of the series whilst delivering a story that works for both children and adults. In fact, I think I may have to lend him my Kindle for a few days…


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