atypicalreview

HalfLife

Why do I review Doctor Who books for Grapefruit anyhow? Is it to challenge Andrew for least commented review? Is it to justify buying them all the time? Is it to try to get a different breed of net geek to search for this site? No, actually, it’s for the groovy looking covers. One tires of screencaps.

Luckily, unlike the previous story, this book far surpasses its cover. The Doctor, Fitz and Trix (Fitz and Trix… hee hee — I’ll never get tired of saying that out loud) land on the planet Espero, one of Earth’s first colonies. Pathetic, paranoid colonists are always good for a laugh, and these ones are also racist and catholic to boot! As well as predominantly dark-skinned, making the TARDIS crew rather obviously strangers everywhere they go. As one might expect, something bad is about to happen on Espero, and only the Doctor can put it right. If he could just work out who he was…

This memory thing’s very convenient for you, isn’t it? It just stops you having to give anything away…— Calamee

“Oh no,” you cry, “not amnesia again!” Well, yes, but rest assured this particular bout of memory loss is cleared up quite early on. Of course, it does lead to discussion of the Doctor’s somewhat bigger case of amnesia — and presents good reasons for his refusing to find them. This might have been a touch irritating if it had come in the middle of a series of books that I knew had no plans to do anything with his memory loss — but as it is, there’s only a handful of Eighth Doctor stories left to go, and one assumes there’ll be some resolution to it before the series ends. In this context, it serves more as a reminder to set up future books.

Hopefully. But enough talk of the amnesia — the area’s a minefield and if there WERE Doctor Who fans reading this, there’d be comments galore, I promise. Instead — plot. There’s a nice, deftly painted backstory to this novel, which I usually enjoy. Unfortunately, the pacing is a bit off, and we only get it all very late in the game. Perhaps some vignettes throughout the story would have worked better? Suddenly, there’s this whole new character that you have to care about, who turns out to be the centre of everything. Things feel a bit unbalanced.

If the plot isn’t perfect, the characters and tone in general make up for it. The Doctor’s friend Calamee is a well-drawn teenager, the old Imperator is nice, even if his cunning plan’s anticipation is laid on a bit thick. The villainous Mr Trove is highly enjoyable, and I’ve always enjoyed bitchy royalty. But Fitz and the Doctor steal the show this time around, after undergoing a bit of a memory scramble together. The results are hilarious and lead to some good character development for the pair. Again, I’d think this would just be a drop in the ocean, but with so few books to go, there’s a real chance that all the character threads will actually lead somewhere, and finish.

In any case — fun, nicely written, and with a decent climax — my main failing with Doctor Who recently. Far better than Sometime Never… — perhaps we’re going out on a high.

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