Sunday, August 30, 2015

Book Review of Doctor Who: The Drosten's Curse by A. L. Kennedy

The Drosten’s Curse is one of a series of books written about the Doctor Who British television series. The Doctor has been entertaining audiences on both sides of the pond for a long time. For those who don’t know, the show revolves around the adventures of a Time Lord only referred to as The Doctor. He travels the universe in his space ship/time machine called the Tardis that looks like an old fashioned police call box. He tends to like company and picks up plucky female human platonic companions along the way to share his adventures. (No sex please, we’re British.)

Early on, to solve the problem of an actor playing Doctor Who leaving the show, the writers devised a creative solution. The Doctor became a kind of immortal. If mortally wounded, he doesn’t actually die, but instead conveniently transforms his old body into the new actor. I know, it’s dumb, but it’s science fiction, so just go with it. This book details a new adventure of one of The Doctor’s from the 1970’s played by Tom Baker. There are generally two types of Doctor’s; grumpy and slightly mad. Tom Baker was one of the best of the slightly mad.

The Drosten’s Curse attempts to recreate the feel of a Baker episode, and to a large extent it succeeds. The action takes place in the British countryside in 1978 at the Fetch Brothers Golf Resort and Spa. People are mysteriously disappearing. The owner, an old woman named Julia Fetch, has an unnatural obsession with octopi and two unusual grandchildren who may not be as human as they seem. Why, what this story needs is a plucky heroine. Fortunately, she comes along in the form of Bryony Mailer, just the sort of person to help The Doctor discover what horror hides under the links.

Books like these are really no more than elevated fan fiction. As such, they should be as well-written as the original with an engaging story and interesting characters. The author does well with that. Her recreation of the Tom Baker Doctor Who captures much of the appealing lunacy of the original and the plucky heroine is, well, suitably plucky. The story has a nice couple of twists and fits The Doctor Who mold well.

The major problem with the book is dithering. Doctor Who television episodes are about an hour long and proceed at a brisk pace. The action is naturally condensed, but is usually meant to span less than a day. The TV writing is brisk, intelligent, with a certain amount of cheek. Much of that is seen in The Drosten’s Curse, but the dithering gets in the way. Yow, it drips from every page and every character. On television, you only have an hour to get your point across. Dithering is kept to a necessary minimum. Here, paragraphs are spent in characters wondering if they should do this, or that, or the other, or maybe something entirely different. Sheesh. Just get a move on, already.  Dithering constantly interrupts the flow of the plot and is a major annoyance. The book is 361 pages long. Take out the dithering and you’d have a tightly written 200 page story more reminiscent of the fun of the TV show.

I received this book from Blogging for Books for this review.

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