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Aug 31, 2005

They're hardback and everything..

Since I'm the new reviewer, I thought I'd better review the new books. Rather then string them all out, I'll just have three mini-reviews.

The Clockwise Man

"In 1920s London the Doctor and Rose find themselves caught up in the hunt for a murderer. But not everyone or everything is what they seem. Secrets lie behind locked doors and inhuman killers roam the streets. Who is the Painted Lady and why is she so interested in the Doctor? How can a cat return from the dead? Can anyone be trusted to tell - or even to know - the truth? With faceless killers closing in, the Doctor and Rose must solve the mystery of the Clockwise Man before London itself is destroyed..."

Having not read a Doctor Who novel before, I wasn't quite sure what to expect. So I was pleasantly surprised when I started delving into this one. Several knowing nods ("I like scrapyards. Never know what you might find" says the Doctor early on) gives the die-hard fan a reassuring pat on the back that although these new novels might be appealing to a younger audience, they haven't forgotten the real fans. Indeed, this would be the most adult of the three, featuring a haemopliac child,  numberous deaths and a good old fashioned last stand.

Indeed, it goes on to become a very gripping tale. A good page or two is spent going over the history of all those who feature heavily in the book, and you're gradually drawn in to the mystery. Indeed, as things start going a bit pair shaped, you're gripped. How will the Doctor come out of it intact? But then the big twist comes... and it falls apart slightly.

It's not that it's a bad twist, it's just... you feel like the story deserves more. The Clockwise Man revealed and the science behind it explained in some rather mental-meltdown-style detail, there's little else for the story to go on, but it tries anyway, and ends with a valient battle on top of Big Ben (do you think the writer knew about 'Aliens in London' when writing this?) which does its best to draw you back in.

So to sum up, it's a good book, but there's one or two slighty iffy places that may jar you out of the 'zone'.

Bad Wolf watch - It's mentioned as someone gets the phrase 'like a bad penny' wrong. "You do keep turning up. Like a bad wolf."

Winner Takes All

"The Doctor and Rose are back on present-day Earth, in the middle of a heatwave. Apart from the temperature, the worst thing that's happening is the local bully causing trouble. Everything else seems pretty good. A new video game has been launched; it's a big hit, and you can even win copies on scratchcards at the supermarket. There are all sorts of other prizes too — like holidays. That's what people are desperate to win — it's so hot, they want to get away for as long as possible. So it's really no surprise when they just don't return..."

This is my favourite of the three, for a variety of reasons. First of all, video gaming is central to the theme. Second, it's back with Mickey & Jackie. Third, the villains are, essentially, giant porcupines. Which makes it easy to see what this story is - an enjoyable romp. That's all it is, and that's all it claims to be. Which makes it much easier to read.

Unlike the others, there's no real technical stuff - the most taxing thing on the mind is the idea that people have metal things attached to them so people can control them like robots - and it's all rather lighthearted, although not so much when people die. That's not a bad thing at all, it's just different from the other two novels, which are deadly serious.

There's a surprisingly large amount to enjoy with this book, and if you have to pick one of the three, I'd recommend this one.

Bad Wolf watch - it's the name of a game in Mickey's flat. "There was a pile of games on the floor: Gran Turismo, Resident Evil, Bad Wolf, Timesplitters 2, loads of football stuff."

The Monsters Inside

"The TARDIS takes the Doctor and Rose to a disastrous destination in deep space — Justicia, a prison camp stretched over seven planets, where Earth colonies deal with their criminals. Soon Rose finds herself locked up in a teenage borstal while the Doctor languishes in a scientific labour camp. Each is determined to find the other, and soon both Rose and the Doctor are risking their lives to escape in their distinctive styles. But their dangerous plans are further complicated by some old enemies. But are they fellow prisoners as they claim, or are they staging a takeover for their own sinister purposes?"

This was actually the first of the three I read. Rose finally arrives on her first alien planet, only to be captured, arrested and thrown into prison. The Doctor, meanwhile, is taken to a different planet altogether, where he's forced to share a cell with... two Slitheen. That alone does not inspire confidence, but it gets worse.

It's hard to review this one without giving away more plot details, but the Doctor is taken to a scientific center where he's forced to use his intellect to do... scientific things. There's a very nice moment where he manages to trick the authorities into trying to reunite him & Rose by using Eastenders as a means of conveying information, but after that... it really goes downhill. I've never read the old style Doctor Who books, but if they're anything like this, it's not a good thing.

It's an infodump, ladies and gentlemen. And a big one at that. "With the gravity amplifier magnifying the energy of the warp-hole network..." It comes at you thick and fast and it's almost impossible to take it all in unless you go through very slowly. And it stays, right up til the end, by which point you'll be glad it's all over.

Before that final third, however, it's not a bad book at all. The author just decided to alienate all the youngsters reading it.

Bad Wolf watch: mentioned by one of the characters to Rose. "The big bad wolf's ready to blow our house down."

So to sum up... they're not bad books at all. They all have flaws, but it's hard to find a Doctor Who book that doesn't. In the end, they're all enjoyable, but everyone will have their own preference.


Oh lord, I hated 'Winner Takes All' wierdly for some of the reasons you give for liking it. I kept on waiting for the other shoe to drop, for there to be something else going on, for the giant porcupines to be a front enemy for someone else and in the end ... I didn't find the central conceat -- the games machine and the game coherent or realistic enough -- it felt like something someone who doesn't play computer games would think a computer game must be like. Much prefered 'The Clockwise Men' -- The Unquiet Dead in book form.

has anyone spotted the books are numbered?

1: clockwise
2: monsters
3: winner

heres a clue. the chapter numbers are also noted in gallifreyan and the spines of the books have a gallifreyan symbol on them.

Some smartass in the bbc books design department needs a promotion :)

oh and my fave was clockwise man. seemed the closest to the traditional books and the most adult. I HATED monsters.

To be honest, I've yet to find someone who really likes Monsters Inside. Worst of the three, by far.

And I noticed the symbols on the spine, but didn't realise what they were. More nods to the past for the die hards, methinks.

Paul Songer said: has anyone spotted the books are numbered?

Not until you mentioned it, but I have now. The Time Lords seem to count in base 7. How odd (I mean quite literally odd!). You'd either expect base 10 (because they have the same number of fingers as us) or base 12 or base 16 or something for ease of calculation. 7 doesn't divide by anything. Except 7 of course (and 1, but what doesn't?).

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