More Eighth Doctor Adventures
I thought it was high time I did a little roundup of some more of the Eighth Doctor novels I’ve been reading.
I’m a few books in now, with Michael Collier’s ‘Longest Day’ up next. I’ve been thoroughly enjoying them, dipping in and out of the Doctor’s ongoing adventures as I read them in between other things. It’s nice to know they’re all sitting there waiting for me, and whenever I feel as if I could do with a fix, and can go and pluck the next one off the shelf and dive in. I do wish I’d been writing back in those days. I would have loved to have joined in the fun and written a novel for this range. I had great fun last year writing my Eleventh Doctor novel, Paradox Lost, and I’d love to do more. We need more Doctor Who books! Hopefully, one day, we’ll see another ongoing novel range.
Anyway – these EDAs are great! I’m really enjoying the series. For a while now I’ve been waiting for the moment I’m going to start hating Sam – everything I’ve read or been told about her is negative – but to be honest, eight or nine books in, I’m actually quite fond of her. Yes, she can be a bit ‘right on’ and very 90s and all of that – but she seems to work well with the Eighth Doctor and I find myself rooting for them both as I’m supposed to. Perhaps I’m mellowing a bit, getting a bit more tolerant of some of the perceived issues people have with Doctor Who, both classic and modern.
Last time I talked about Rip Tide, The Dying Days and The Eight Doctors (and The Scarlet Empress, but I was getting ahead of myself). Since I’ve read so many since, I thought I’d talk about them in little batches, so today here’s some thoughts on Eye of the Tyger, Vampire Science and The Bodysnatchers.
Eye of the Tyger by Paul McAuley is another of the Telos novellas, and was a real treat. I’ve been a fan of McAuley’s writing for many years, ever since I first read Fairyland and the Confluence series, and I love how he manages here to deliver a tale that feels every bit a Doctor Who story, but also has a vast, cosmological scale. I also love how it blends elements of speculative science with a real fairytale tone, giving the whole thing a fantastical, mythical quality. The opening sequence in the Raj is also particularly strong, and I only wish we’d had more of it – the limitation of a novella, of course, is that you don’t always have time to linger and enjoy the view. That said, I think the novella is a great form for Doctor Who prose, and it’s lamentable we don’t get to see stories of this length any more. Eye of the Tyger is probably my favourite of the Telos novellas, at least of the ones I’ve read.
Next up was Vampire Science by Jonathan Blum and Kate Orman. Wow! That was a revelation. Really, this should have been the launch of the BBC Eighth Doctor range, I think. It has everything, and feels very much like the logical next step from The Dying Days. As I said at the time, I enjoyed The Eight Doctors, but I think Vampire Science does a much better job of launching the series, showing people how it could – and should – work.
It’s a while since I read it now, so I’m hazy on the details, but I recall vividly how well realised both the characters and setting felt to me as I read. The Eighth Doctor here was the very same Eighth Doctor we saw on screen in 1996, and San Francisco just came alive in the descriptions. This is where I realised I was going to really like Sam, contrary to (apparently) everyone else’s opinion, and to be honest it cemented my desire to go on and read all of the rest of the EDAs in order. I think the other thing it did really well was capture the sense of its era, too. It feels like a book set in the 90s, just as, looking back at a lot of older black and white Who these days, those episodes feel very much influenced by the concerns of their time.
The book was my first introduction to the work of either Orman or Blum, and I’m eagerly anticipating the approaching Seeing-I, which is up in only a few book’s time. I’m really hoping it’s as good as Vampire Science, and if so, I’m likely to devour it in a couple of days, which these days is practically unheard of for me, but which is exactly what happened with Vampire Science.
After the joys of Vampire Science, I seem to recall that I rushed headlong into Mark Morris’s The Bodysnatchers the very next day. It wasn’t a disappointment. This book had all the ingredients I love: Victorian London, Zygons, Professor Litefoot. It felt to me very much like a cosy book – I knew exactly where I was with the story. Morris wasn’t about to turn the universe of Doctor Who on its head or do something startling new and original with this novel, but he *did* perfectly capture the tone and approach of two of my favourite classic episodes, Terror of the Zygons and The Talons of Weng Chiang.
I think The Bodysnatchers was just what was needed at that point in the series – a classic returning monster, done well, in the traditional format of the telly show. It was a great reminder that what we’re reading is Doctor Who, and that for all of the brave new ideas and styles, sometimes it’s nice to sit back and read a traditional Doctor Who story, too. It gave me comfort to know that the Eighth Doctor novels – with all their mad reinvention to come – still had room for this type of story too. Great stuff – like drinking a mug of hot milk with cinnamon and honey.
Phew! I’ve gone on a bit, there. But I really am enjoying this series. So much so, that I’ve also gone back and started listening to the Eighth Doctor Audios with Sheridan Smith, too. More on those – and more of the novels – later.