The Best Original Doctor Who Novel For Years. After having spent the last seven years having to make do with Doctor Who books that a two year old wouldn’t find challenging, it’s finally back to the subject matter that made the books such a success in the first place, the classic series.The Virgin and BBC ranges of the ’90’s were the pinnacle of the Doctor Who novel and The Wheel of Ice fits that tonal feel that those prior books had.A couple of years ago it was decided to do a series of hardback novels based on Doctor Who that were written by more mainstream science fiction authors, rather than the usual group that were used in the past. They have had mixed results because the authors have fallen into the trap of using hard sci fi concepts and shoehorning the Doctor and co into them, in short, they are not really Doctor Who books at all, despite being well written.This one is different. It actually feels like the era in which it is set, Troughton’s final year.I’m not going to go into plot, as I hate spoilers and I’m sure most people do too. But briefly, the story is set on a moon within the rings of Saturn, where by there’s a human colony set up to mine for minerals. The story is set in the late 21st Century, so the technology of the humans is very much in the dank, dark and fairly primitive stage rather than Star Trek’ Enterprise high tech look. The TARDIS has been brought here by a temporal disaster that is somehow linked to an amulet that is worn by a sixteen year old girl, which has been in her family for centuries. There’s sabotage and murder on a regular basis and the base has been infiltrated by a race known as the Blue Dolls, whose existance is denied by the authorities.As said, the tone of the piece is very much in keeping with the TV equivalent and one can actually visualise Troughton, Hines and Padbury in the parts of the Doctor, Jamie and Zoe, and the book even has the single element that made the Troughton years so memorable, the ‘base-under-siege’ scenario.There are wonderful descriptive space scenes and fascinating background passages detailing the history of the amulet, which do not interrupt the flow of the story, but rather add to it.This is, without a doubt, the best single Doctor Who novel since, at least, 2005 and proves that, as good as the new series is, there’s nothing quite like the classic era of the show, for great characters and fantastic stories.I hope that this is going to become the first in a line of new novels set in the eras of the first eight Doctors, one thing’s for sure, if they are half as good as this, we are in for a treat.Absolutely, and wholeheartedly, recommended.
A classic touch -back with the Second Doctor for an intriguing adventure. I loved this book and I’m not even a huge Dr Who fan. Well, not of the current Doctor. As a small-ish child one of my first TV crushes was Jamie McCrimmon, (Frazer Hines), the Second Doctor’s Scottish assistant, and I suspect I wasn’t alone. I remember being particularly upset when Jamie was returned to Earth with his memory wiped and no chance of a comeback with the Third Doctor. He’s here again with his character intact. Woo-hoo! Stephen Baxter has recreated his voice, along with Patrick Troughton’s and Wendy Padbury’s. I suppose I should mention them…What lifts this above the usual TV-tie in is the sheer quality of the writing. Stephen Baxter is a fine sci-fi writer and this book is completely outside the cliche-ridden formulaic Doctor books of recent years (I buy those for my grandchildren.)The story itself is a real page-turner, it’s difficult to describe it without inserting spoilers. We’re on an alien world, with our heroes under siege… it’s classic.Older children will appreciate this, but this is definitely in the adult /cross-over category. Highly recommended.
Wheelie nice What do you get if you cross “The Wheel in Space” with “The Ice Warriors”? “The Wheel Warriors”? Nope. “The Ice in Space”? Try again. “The Space Warriors”? No, silly – it’s “The Wheel of Ice”, of course!Following on from “”, BBC Books gives us another chunky hardback featuring a classic series Doctor, and this time it’s a completely original novel rather than a novelisation – the first such publication since 2005! The TARDIS crew on this occasion is from the end of the 1960s monochrome era: the Second Doctor, Jamie and Zoe. I must be honest and say that Stephen Baxter’s dialogue for the Doctor often does not sound much like Patrick Troughton to me, though the general characterisation is correct: compassionate, but with a hard-edged streak when the situation demands it. Jamie and Zoe come across well, though the former’s accent is stronger than it tended to be on television.The author throws in numerous casual references to aspects of the “Doctor Who” universe, particularly from Zoe’s time aboard the TARDIS. There are allusions to “” (the fuel source bernalium is a major plot point, and meson shields and the Pull Back to Earth movement are also mentioned), “” (the surface of Titan reminds Jamie of the landscape of the Land of Fiction, and Zoe recalls the comic-strip adventures of the Karkus), “” (the Cybermen and UNIT) and “” (the Ice Warriors and T-Mat). In honour of Kit Pedler, the scientist who provided ideas for several 1960s storylines and co-created the Cybermen, Baxter includes a phenomenon known as pedleron particles.The fact that both the Mnemosyne Cincture and the station where the Doctor first met Zoe are called Wheels is never commented upon in the book. Indeed, Baxter goes out of his way never to refer to Space Station W3 by its informal designation, the Wheel, which was used throughout “The Wheel in Space”. However, it is possible that after the Mnemosyne Wheel made such a name for itself, the term became common parlance for any vaguely circular space station or colony.You may have gathered by now that I came to this book as a “Doctor Who” fan rather than a Stephen Baxter aficionado, but I also enjoyed the hard science the author brings to the mix. The book incorporates a fascinating tour of Saturn’s rings and satellites, including the icy Enceladus and the disconcertingly Earth-like Titan. After perusing such passages, I would frequently find myself going online to read more about these wonders of the Solar System (but not Mnemosyne, which is a made-up moon). Many of these sequences are seen through Jamie’s eyes, thus ensuring that everything is explained in terms that non-scientists will grasp. They also involve plenty of interplanetary peril, which balances the intrigue and political machinations that take place on the Mnemosyne Cincture.The author never allows his up-to-the-minute scientific knowledge to undermine the imagination of the Swinging Sixties. If it was shown or mentioned on the telly, then it is part of the “Doctor Who” universe, including Z-Bombs, taranium, and time-travel done with mirrors. If it seems far-fetched, it is worth remembering that in this version of reality, the British space programme reached Mars and Jupiter during the 20th century, so it is no giant leap to assume that there will be a colony at Saturn by about 2050. Where possible, though, Baxter grounds this stuff in reality or believable theory – surprisingly, the flying car depicted in a flashback to around 2010 is a real vehicle!The secret that lies at the heart of Mnemosyne perhaps owes a little to “”, but for the most part “The Wheel of Ice” is a diverting amalgamation of cutting-edge science and the adventurous spirit of the Sixties. Wheelie nice.
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