Book Review – Doctor Who: The Well-Mannered War

  • Title: The Well-Mannered War
  • Series: Virgin Publishing Missing Doctor Adventures
  • Author: Gareth Roberts
  • Characters:  Fourth Doctor, Romana II, K-9
  • Date Reviewed on GoodReads: 7/19/2015

The Well-Mannered War is one of the best TV tie-in novels I’ve ever read, and the best I’ve read so far in Virgin Publishing’s Missing Doctors Adventures. It isn’t often that a tie-in novel makes you think, but not only does this novel do that – it is a deeply philosophical work.

The novel begins in a typical way, The Fourth Doctor (as played by Tom Baker), Romana II (as played by Lalla Ward) and K-9 are in the TARDIS when something goes awry. The Doctor manages to materialise the TARDIS successfully, and he and Romana decide to look around where they’ve landed, even though they have hit the Temporal Boundary – past which no Time Lord should explore. It seems even Time Lords shouldn’t see their own future. However, what seems to be a typical “excuse” to start the adventure is returned to at the end of the novel – and the accident and the Doctor’s reaction to it – wasn’t as much of an accident as it seems.

Meanwhile, the Doctor and Romana are on Barclow, which is meant to be a colony planet. However, for over 100 years a war has been brewing on the planet – between human soldiers from nearby Metralubit who claim the small rock as their colony, and alien Chelonians, turtle-like intelligent beings. But it an novel twist – no one has actually fired a shot at the other side for all that time. In fact, the two “armies” have actually become close enough friends to attend teas and similar gatherings – while preforming their tours of the war zone, and pointing deadly weapons at the other side.

Romana with K-9 and the Doctor are separated and each end-up visiting the other side. However, video of K-9 attempting to save the life of the Metralubit candidate for the premiership surfaces – allowing K-9 to claim the principle of “Constitutional privilege” meaning he gets to assume the place of the dead political candidate and run for office against the sitting premier. K-9’s political campaign is rife with political satire – and a lot of humor. This novel is quite funny especially in what is basically the first and second parts of the novel (there are no formal parts designations).

Romana and K-9 journey to Metralubit, where K-9 runs his campaign, and Romana begins to figure out what is going on. She, however, makes one miscalculation. And Stokes, the artist from The Romance of Crime, also takes an action with far-reaching consequences. When more is revealed – it’s a race to stop an ancient, unassuming, and very surprising enemy. To say more would spoil the fun – so I won’t reveal it.

For most Doctor Who books that would be it – and it would be enough – a fun read, lots of humor, lots of action, an intriguing plot, and a truly original enemy. But perhaps because this is chronologically the last book in the Missing Doctors Adventures series of original Doctor Who novels, Gareth Roberts goes farther – and it’s the final few chapters of this book that made me really love it, despite the bittersweet tone, and give this book the highest rating possible – something I seldom do for tie-ins and original novels based on a TV series. I don’t want to spoil anything – so I won’t go into details. But the end is truly philosophical, it’s brilliant, it’s bittersweet, and it makes you think. Highly recommended!

Book Review – Doctor Who: The English Way of Death

  • Title: The English Way of Death
  • Series: Virgin Publishing Missing Doctor Adventures
  • Author: Gareth Roberts
  • Characters:  Fourth Doctor, Romana II, K-9
  • Date Reviewed on GoodReads: 6/29/2015

The English Way of Death is an original story in Virgin Publishing’s Missing Doctor book series. It features the Fourth Doctor, as played by Tom Baker, Romana II, as played by Lalla Ward, and K-9. The Doctor unplugs the randomizer that is supposed to keep he and Romana safe from the Black Guardian so he can return some over-due library books.

Soon he and Romana are involved in events, which include admonishing a group of time-travelling tourists from the future – and stopping an evil alien menace from destroying the world.

The alien had already destroyed his own planet, when his attempts to draw energy from a new power source went horribly wrong. In the midst of his engineering, he gets trapped in a time and space trap. The time travelers had accidentally allowed part of the alien’s essence to escape the trap. While that part uses gaseous energy to raise zombies that he uses as slave labor, Romana ends up releasing the other half of his personality.

The guest characters in this story often reminded me of British stereotype characters – but that made them fun and relatable. For example, there’s a bombastic British military man who insists on telling everyone all about his adventures in India, especially his dates (he’s boorish, arrogant, brags about his exploits, and reminds me of the Colonel in the Tennessee Tuxedo / Underdog cartoons.) Then there’s the Spanish countess, the British gentlewoman on the prowl for a rich husband, so she can write, etc. Throw in the time travelers, and you’ve got an interesting group of people running around.

The zombies – well, zombies aren’t my thing, even when they are glowing green.

Note: This novel has been recently re-printed.

Book Review – Doctor Who: The Romance of Crime

  • Title: The Romance of Crime
  • Series: Virgin Publishing Missing Doctor Adventures
  • Author: Gareth Roberts
  • Characters:  Fourth Doctor, Romana II, K-9
  • Date Reviewed on GoodReads: 5/25/2015

The Romance of Crime is an original paperback novel in the Doctor Who Missing Adventures series published by Virgin Publishing. The story features the Fourth Doctor as played by Tom Baker, and the second Romana as played by Lalla Ward, plus K-9. The Doctor and Romana land in a corridor, and soon find a “spaceship” bar where the drinks and the air are drugged. They are about to leave, when, as often happens, they get interrupted. The ship is actually an asteroid that’s rocket-powered, it’s also a high security prison, a series of court houses, and even an execution chamber. The worst criminals from the local system as sent to “the Rock” for trial, prison, and in most cases, execution. And it’s meant to be escape-proof. So, of course…

The plot starts with an impossible murder, and moves very quickly. It seems an executed master criminal and mass murderer isn’t as dead as everyone assumes. And, there are Ogrons!

I really enjoyed this book! It’s a fun and enjoyable read. It’s not too deep, but it feels like a Doctor Who adventure. Everyone was in character – I could “hear” John Leeson’s voice as K-9, though at times, Romana seemed to be written more like Mary Tamm than Lalla Ward. The other characters worked as well. Overall, it’s a fun read, recommended – especially to fans of Classic Doctor Who.

Book Review – Doctor Who: The Shadow of Weng-Chiang

  • Title: The Shadow of Weng-Chiang
  • Series: Virgin Publishing Missing Doctor Adventures
  • Author: David A. McIntee
  • Characters:  Fourth Doctor, Romana I
  • Date Reviewed on GoodReads: 4/17/2015

The Shadow of Weng-Chiang is one of the Doctor Who Missing Adventures original novels published by Virgin publishing. It is also a sequel to the Tom Baker and Leela story, The Talons of Weng-Chiang. This original novel features Tom Baker’s Fourth Doctor and the First Romana (as played by Mary Tamm).

After the last Doctor Who novel that I read (Managra) and found truly, truly dreadful – I was very happy that The Shadow of Weng-Chiang was much, much better. It was an excellent story on it’s own, and even manages to fix some of the issues with the original story produced by the BBC.

The novel starts with the Doctor and Romana in the TARDIS, having discovered the third segment of the Key to Time, they are ready to find the Fourth Segment. They are surprised when the TARDIS again lands on Earth, this time Shanghai, in China, in the 1930s. Romana uses the tracer to find the Fourth Segment, but the signal is weak and even disappears at times. She and the Doctor are confused, and the Doctor thinks it unlikely that the Guardians would have hidden two segments on the same planet.

Soon the Doctor and Romana figure out that the tracer is actually picking up Chronon Radiation. The Doctor and Romana investigate. A woman named Hsien-Ko has risen to leadership of the Black Scorpion Tong on the promise to bring back the “god” Weng-Chiang. Meanwhile, a cop named Li keeps arresting the Doctor and Romana, and, a club owner named Woo is also involved in what’s going on.

Hsien-Ko was affected by Chronon Radiation from birth and can travel, unaided, via the Dragon Paths – shortcuts through space. She creates Geomantic compasses so her followers can also travel instantly between long distances. But her ambition is to also travel through time. To this end, she has a nuclear reactor built inside a mountain that also has naturally occurring quartz running throughout it. The reactor and quartz will be used to magnify power so she can obtain time travel. Her plan isn’t as far fetched as it sounds in summary, given the Time Cabinet of Weng-Chiang.

Everyone assumes they know Hsien-Ko’s plan – to return the “god” Weng-Chiang. But her actual ambitions are more complicated, more understandable, and much more dangerous. Li and Woo also have deep secrets and hidden motivations.

The story is a quick read, but the characters are deeply complex, especially as no one’s motives are what everyone else assumes they are. The characters reach past stereotypes, especially those that other characters in the book hold about them. This was something I really liked about the novel – though everyone’s true motives aren’t clear until the last few chapters of the book. I also found The Shadow of Weng-Chiang to be a very fast read and I enjoyed it very much!

This Doctor Who novel is highly recommended to fans of the program and also to fans of historical fiction.

Book Review – Doctor Who: Managra

  • Title: Managra
  • Series: Virgin Publishing Missing Doctor Adventures
  • Author: Stephen Marley
  • Characters:  Fourth Doctor, Sarah Jane Smith
  • Date Reviewed on GoodReads: 3/25/2015

I hate to say this because I like to be positive in my reviews and I also like to encourage reading of the Doctor Who Missing Adventures but this novel was just awful. It was well over 300 pages, much longer than most Doctor Who novels – and about 150 pages longer than it should have been. In fact, some editing might have improved the novel.

This novel is part of the Doctor Who Missing Adventures series of original novels. This one features Tom Baker as the Fourth Doctor and Sarah Jane Smith (as played by Elisabeth Sladen on the TV series). Most of the Missing Adventures feature a chapter or two at the beginning that introduces the world that the Doctor and his companions are about to visit. This book takes a very long time to introduce the Doctor and his companions, spending considerable time introducing Europa. But even once the Doctor and Sarah arrive – the book still has chapters which feature other characters, and even switches between at least two character sets and the Doctor. The Doctor and Sarah are regulated to guest star appearances and really have nothing to do (but get captured, tortured, released, and re-captured – rinse and repeat) until the last third of the novel. Even then, once the book comes together, I just didn’t care for it.

This novel is filled with religious prejudice and hatred – and I felt it was highly inappropriate for a Doctor Who novel. Save your money and skip this particular novel.

Book Review – Doctor Who: Evolution

  • Title: Evolution
  • Series: Virgin Publishing Missing Doctor Adventures
  • Author: John Peel
  • Characters:  Fourth Doctor, Sarah Jane Smith
  • Date Reviewed on GoodReads: 1/17/2015

Doctor Who Evolution is part of the Doctor Who The Missing Adventures published by Virgin Publishing, it features the Fourth Doctor as played by Tom Baker and Sarah Jane Smith as played by Elisabeth Sladen. And it’s a very fun read. The only reason it took me so long to read the book is my e-book didn’t have flowable type (at least in the first e-reader I tried) – since the print was incredibly small, and attempting to enlarge it meant I had to scan horizontally across the typeface – I found it to be physically exhausting and irritating. I finally tried reading the book in Adobe Reader and then I could get the print to a reasonable size without having to scan back and forth on each line. Some of the lines double-printed, though, with the type over-lapping, so I had to go back to other e-reader and squint to read the type then go back — that was exhausting. Publishers CHECK YOUR COPY! And don’t assume everyone can read micro-sized 6-point type! OK, rant over.

The story itself was a fun romp. Sarah is exploring the TARDIS, checking out the wardrobe, then the swimming pool, but she eventually gets bored. She goes to the Doctor who asks her if there’s someone she wants to meet – and Sarah says, yes, Rudyard Kipling.

The TARDIS then arrives in Victorian Devon – where a horrific giant hound is haunting the moor, and a fisherman’s been killed by some extra-ordinary creature, and Sarah meets Kipling – but he’s a schoolboy. She and the Doctor also meet Arthur Conan Doyle, not yet “Sir”, who’s just finished a tour as a doctor on a whaling ship – that’s also pulled into the port in Devon. Yes, this story is as fun as you might expect. The Doctor and Sarah are quickly caught into events because several local schoolboys and street children have disappeared, and Kipling and a couple of his friends are trying to find them.

The plot involves a scientist who’s lived in his older brother’s shadow his entire life and has a terrible inferiority complex who’s determined to prove he’s smarter than his brother – and a deluded industrialist, who thinks he’s on the side of progress – but actually he’s promoting slavery and lack of self-will and self-determination. The arguments of the scientist and industrialist to defend what they are doing are fascinating. Totally wrong and awful – but fascinating none the less.

I really enjoyed this book. The first half, as the Doctor and Sarah meet all the locals in the small village – the lord at the manor, his daughter, her fiancé, Conan Doyle, the local doctor (Dr. Martinson), Kipling and his friends, a local boy from the village, the local fishermen, the whaling boat captain, etc and find out about the mysterious hound on the moor is just plain fun. The second part, as it becomes clearer and clearer just what is going on is also pretty cool. It should be horrifying but it’s not really, it was just very, very neat. And I loved the end!

Highly recommended, especially to classic era Doctor Who fans!

Book Review – Doctor Who: Millennium Shock

  • Title: Millennium Shock
  • Series: BBC Books Past Doctor Adventures
  • Author: Justin Richards
  • Characters:  Fourth Doctor, Dr. Harry Sullivan
  • Date Reviewed on GoodReads: 11/09/2014

This is the second time I’ve read Millennium Shock. The first time I realized it was a sequel, but read it anyway because I knew the first book in the series, System Shock was part of the long out-of-print Doctor Who Missing Adventures series of books published by Virgin Publishing, and I would be unlikely to find a copy.

Now that I’ve read an e-book version of System Shock I did find that Millennium Shock made more sense. There’s a lot of detail from System Shock that’s used in this book – and not really explained.

Anyway, Millennium Shock is in the BBC Past Doctor Adventures series. It stars the Fourth Doctor (played on the television series by Tom Baker) and Dr. Harry Sullivan (played by Ian Marter on the TV series) who is now working for MI5. Sarah Jane Smith makes a brief appearance at the beginning, then we don’t see her again.

The plot involves the Millennium Bug, and a two-part plan – a corrupt British politician who wants to use the Bug to his own advantage; and aliens who are manipulating the politician for their own ends. The aliens are mechanical and computer Cyborgs – combined with the reptile snake-like appearance of their original ancestors. However, they hide their forms to look more human. And they intend, again, to take over the world using Voractyll, an alien computer that can infiltrate computer networks. The original code had been split apart, so during most of the book the aliens are attempting to re-assemble the code.

The Doctor, of course, manages to divert the aliens – mostly by appealing to the emotions they thought they no longer had, and by turning their tricks against them.

Overall, the book made more sense the second time around. However, System Shock had more humor. Still, an excellent Doctor Who novel. I recommend it.