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Steve White "Steve" (Peterborough, UK)

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Doctor Who: Coldheart
Doctor Who: Coldheart
by Trevor Baxendale
Edition: Paperback

5.0 out of 5 stars Coldheart, 12 Jun 2014
This review is from: Doctor Who: Coldheart (Paperback)
Trevor Baxendale is one of those authors whose books sound like utter garbage from the cover blurb yet hook you right from the start and turn out to be rather good indeed. Baxendale’s previous novel, The Janus Conjunction, was one of my favourites of the range so far and I didn’t like the sound of it from the cover, and likewise with Coldheart.

The main plot of Coldheart is that a planet has an ice centre with an intense heat exterior. Water is therefore in high demand and the obvious solution is to mine the ice. The TARDIS crew arrive to discover a city in turmoil and on the brink of destruction thanks to mutations to its populace caused by an alien parasite in the ice. It’s all very traditional and this is what makes it so enjoyable. Coldheart gets it’s claws into you very early on and from then on it’s really hard to put down.

The regulars are done well, with plenty of banter between them. Fitz gets the brunt of it, but he does refer to himself as “Captain” so he does deserve it. He also manages to pull again, this time a mute girl who looks like a camel. Still I’ve woken up next to worse. The Doctor is seemingly going through a hard time and putting himself more at risk than usual. This is mentioned at least twice so what it’s building too I don’t know, but it’s interesting nonetheless. Compassion goes from strength to strength and I really like the link she is slowly building with the Doctor. Baxendale has again created an interesting planet and inhabitants, and whilst the majority are fairly stereotypical they are not built up enough for you to really care.

Coldheart is another fine novel from Trevor Baxendale which treads the path many Doctor Who episodes have in the past, and no doubt will in the future. Instead of being to its detriment, the novel is actually much better for it, and it stands as a great standalone novel for all Doctor Who fans.


Doctor Who: Heart of Tardis
Doctor Who: Heart of Tardis
by Dave Stone
Edition: Paperback

2.0 out of 5 stars Heart of TARDIS, 9 Jun 2014
Heart of TARDIS is a Past Doctor Adventure by David Stone and features the 2nd and 4th Doctors and sounds very intriguing. It doesn’t really live up to its promise though.

The plot of Heart of TARDIS isn’t easy to make out. You have the 2nd Doctor, Jamie and Victoria trapped in some city which doesn’t seem real and where people are being murdered and the 4th Doctor and Romana investigating and odd kidnapping of the Brigadier. The events are obviously linked but it isn’t clear how. On one hand this is irritating, but on the other it keeps things moving. Sadly things fall apart at around the two thirds mark, with Stone introducing lots of plots devices just to push the plot forward, and others added for no reason.

Whilst the story is mostly interesting and entertaining, Stone’s writing style comes across as pretentious and condescending. Long words are used for no real reason and it’s never fun having to look up what words mean continually. Stone also sees fit to explain everything, and add knowing insights or attempts at humour into other bits when neither are really needed.

Both the 2nd and the 4th Doctors are done really well with probably the best portrayal of the 2nd in the range since Steve Lyons. Companion wise Stone has done quite well as Victoria, Jamie and Romana are true to their TV personas. Victoria gets a fair bit of time, but all we learn is she likes women to cover up, Jamie is often forgotten about whilst Romana does the bulk of the work whilst the 4th Doctor faffs. It’s not perfect, but neither is it worth marking down for. Honorary mention goes to the Brigadier, who like Jamie isn’t in it enough. All other characters are annoying as hell however with Crowley and Delbane being the worst offenders. I find this sort of subterfuge very irritating as it just seems lazy.

I found Heart of TARDIS great fun in places, but annoying as hell in others. I had to look up words in the dictionary, and re-read entire paragraphs neither or which I really want to be doing when reading a novel. Stone basically tried far too hard, and the result is a mess with the odd little nugget of greatness. One for fans only I think.


Doctor Who: Grave Matter
Doctor Who: Grave Matter
by Justin Richards
Edition: Paperback

3.0 out of 5 stars Grave Matter, 4 Jun 2014
Grave Matter sees the Past Doctor Adventures back to usual territory after the light-hearted Verdigris. Featuring the 6th Doctor and Peri, and written by Justin Richards, I was hoping for a great read.

Sadly Grave Matter doesn’t get off to a brilliant start and after a reasonably interesting first chapter the pace slows to a crawl. Richards is usually the master of getting you hooked in from the first few pages, but here he lets himself down. Plot wise the Doctor and Peri have arrived on an island off the Cornish coast which seems a little bit anachronistic but it soon becomes clear it is in the present day, the island just shuns most modern technology. Something is still fishy though, with new arrivals Sir Edward Baddesley, Dave Madsen and Christopher Sheldon causing all manner of odd behaviour in the wildlife and local populace. Things do pick up after the first 50 odd pages, but just as the novel starts to get interesting, it descends into a mediocre zombie plot which whilst not bad, hardly sets your imagination alight.

The 6th Doctor and Peri are one of my very favourite pairings. Bar the totally out of character Doctor in The Twin Dilemma I was always a great lover of Colin Baker’s Doctor, with the writing and people in charge letting him down. Sadly he doesn’t fare well in Grave Matter either with Richards opting to write him as a shadow of himself. The 6th Doctor is bold, brash and bullish, but here we see very little of that with a Doctor much more akin to the 3rd. Peri also isn’t great, she’s fairly generic as companions go anyway, and here she doesn’t do much to say she’s Peri. It’s almost as if it was a 3rd Doctor and Jo Grant novel with a few lines changed to fit this era of the show.

Sadly things don’t really pick up when you get to the supporting cast, which is unlike Justin Richards who is normally pretty good. All the characters are clichéd and stereotypically, the grieving brother, the insane but friendly patient, the dodgy newcomers etc. etc. Richards also usually manages to serve up a decent plot twist or two, but here you can see everything coming a mile off.

Grave Matter is basically Doctor Who by numbers with a generic cast. It could be any Doctor with any companion and it would still deliver the exact same experience. The story makes up for this somewhat, but it’s still very middle of the road and nothing you’ve not seen before. Apparently Richards wrote it at short notice, and it shows.


Doctor Who: Verdigris
Doctor Who: Verdigris
by Paul Magrs
Edition: Paperback

5.0 out of 5 stars Verdigris, 28 May 2014
This review is from: Doctor Who: Verdigris (Paperback)
Verdigris was the PDA I was most looking forward to reading when I first got it as it featured a cool cover and featured the 3rd Doctor, my all-time favourite. Since then however I have read the average The Scarlett Empress and the mind numbingly awful The Blue Angel, both also by Paul Magrs, which have seriously made me want to not bother with this book. Still it’s a short one and it has big writing. Much to my surprise I found myself enjoying Verdigris tremendously. Magrs’ usual meta fiction is present, and bits are very tongue in cheek, but the result isn’t as bad as The Scarlett Empress or The Blue Angel, as it happens in an era I am comfortable with. What I really liked about Verdigris was the fun poked at the era with Yates being reduced to an actual cardboard character a work of genius. I won’t ruin the book anymore, but there are plenty of little jibes and in references to the 70’s era which make it well worth a read alone.

Plot wise, Verdigris is a bit wobbly. UNIT have gone missing and a train carriage full of literary characters have turned up, along with Iris Wildthyme and her companion Tom. Tom is approached by a cult to help dispose of the Doctor. Things get really confusing when robot sheep appear along with the Master. The thing is as much as the story is random, it all makes senses in a linear way which is a huge improvement on The Blue Angel.

Despite my dislike of most of Magrs ideas he has had one excellent creation, the wonderful Iris Wildthyme. I prefer the model we get here, the old lady, but her super sexy Barberella model is also a joy to read. The relatively unknown relationship between her and the Doctor is great and the bickering is superb not to mention her constantly trying to bed him. The Doctor himself is spot on as the grumpy but kindly 3rd Doctor, full of pomp and ceremony. Jo and Tom are done well too, although the 70s Vs 00’s difference isn’t touched on nearly enough as it could have been. Tom is an interesting character but sadly the plotline about his Mum is left wide open, as his is possible romance with Kevin.

The other characters are all fairly minimal, with the various Destiny’s Children being the most built up, although not very exciting. No real complaints though, as the four man TARDIS crew own the show. Verdigris himself is a bit of a let-down as well, although it’s all tied up reasonably well at the end, I feel he was underused as a threat.

Verdigris is the Magrs book for people who don't like Paul Magrs. It’s not a serious book, it’s light-hearted, fun and a joy to read.


Doctor Who: Tomb of Valdemar
Doctor Who: Tomb of Valdemar
by Simon Messingham
Edition: Paperback

2.0 out of 5 stars Tomb of Valdemar, 21 May 2014
Tomb of Valdemar is Simon Messingham’s second Past Doctor Adventure after the shockingly bad Zeta Major, so can he redeem himself? Many reviewers seem to think so, but whilst there is a marked improvement from Zeta Major, Tomb of Valdemar is just hard work.

The story of Tomb of Valdemar starts with just that, a story being told to some trappers. The story turns out to be the main plot of the book with regular flits back to the trappers being told the story. It doesn’t really work in honesty, and just serves to stop the flow of the action. Throughout the book Messingham has the characters critique the story they are being told, and the irony is the actual book falls prey to the same complaints.

Plot wise the Doctor, Romana and K9 have to break from finding the Key to Time to stop an ancient evil being unleashed. The trouble is the ancient evil isn’t real and the Doctor knows it, however it will cause the destruction of all life if allowed to go unchecked. Frustratingly nothing is clear cut, one minute Valdemar isn’t real, the next he is, then he isn’t again, but oh he’s real again. The technobabble to explain it all leaves a lot to be desired and a lot of the time you are left scratching your head. It’s not just Valdemar where inconsistencies lie, Neville and Hopkins merge into one creature for no real reason, and against all things we’ve previously been told in the book. Crew are turned into zombies without any real explanation as to why, yes they went mad but when did that make them immune to death? Tomb of Valdemar needs you to be able to gloss over glaring plot holes and cope with a constant stop/start of the story. Again Messingham has characters in the book critique this style so what possessed him to think it was a good idea?

The saving grace of Tomb of Valdemar is the 4th Doctor who is carried off rather well. His mannerisms and sparring with Romana fit with the era nicely and in honesty I’ve not seen the 4th Doctor written for so well. Talking of Romana it’s nice to see a PDA feature her, with the majority featuring Sarah or Leela, however she is side-lined for the majority of the novel, serving only as eye candy for Huvan before becoming possessed.

Supporting cast wise, Messingham doesn’t do well at all. The novelist Pelham flits between hard nosed hack and cowardly woman at random, both Neville and Hopkins are pure evil but bordering comical, and Huvan is just plain wrong. You can’t get behind any of them, and just want the Doctor to get on with his search for the Key to Time simply to meet some interesting people.

Tomb of Valdemar is an improvement on Zeta Major, but it still isn’t a great novel. The writing style is fairly irritating and the novel takes a long time to get going. Messingham has tried to be clever, but it ruined the book for me. Middle of the road.


Doctor Who: Fall of Yquatine
Doctor Who: Fall of Yquatine
by Nick Walters
Edition: Paperback

5.0 out of 5 stars Fall of Yquatine, 15 May 2014
The Fall of Yquatine is an Eighth Doctor Adventure and the second by Nick Walters. I was in the minority with Walters previous novel, Dominion, as I actually quite liked it. It was a pretty solid affair as first novels go, with only a few niggles to mark it down. I was hoping for more of the same.

Sadly first impressions are not good. Firstly any book which features a calendar of the planet it’s set on before the book marks it down as a serious piece of science fiction, which Doctor Who isn’t. Secondly the first chapter doesn’t feature the regulars, is far too long and again sets up a diverse multi-race system which suggests some serious sci-fi.

The story doesn’t really get underway until the 80 page mark, but when it does Walters starts to redeem himself. In short a war is brewing in the Minerva system and when Yquatine falls it appears the Anthaurk are behind it, a claim they strenuously deny but soon appears is the truth, but it isn’t going to stop them taking advantage of it. Whilst the Doctor helps to piece together what happened, Compassion abandons Fitz a short time prior to the fall, and he must try to help out whilst maintaining the timeline.

What follows is an absolutely riveting story which more than makes up for the slow start. My fears of it being all out sci-fi were unfounded with The Fall of Yquatine being primarily a political novel set in space. The ending was perfect, nothing was undone, and the Doctor and his companions slip away leaving the Minerva system to re-build.

Doctor wise, Walters still struggles with the 8th which isn’t that bad considering how this is more of a companion novel, but we’ve had far too many of those recently. Compassion is now a TARDIS but still as moody as ever, especially when the Doctor tries to fit her with a randomiser. Her pain, suffering and redemption are done really well. The star of the show however is Fitz, trapped in the past, on a planet about to get destroyed he does the only thing he can do. Shack up with the president’s girlfriend. Through his womanising and laddishness a light shines however, he really cares about the future, about the people he meets and struggles with his conscience after leaving them to their fate.

My main criticism character wise is that Walters goes to great lengths to introduce us to some really interesting characters who are then not used. Lou Lombardo for instance has you interested as a Sablom Glitz type pie seller dealing in dodgy temporal equipment, he’s even on the back cover. Lou is hardly in the book however, having a few fleeting scenes and never living up to the man of mystery we are promised. Likewise the presidents girlfriend Arielle gets her own, far too long, opening chapter then is only used for plot points. Why bother bigging them up in the first place? All we needed to know was that Arielle was the presidents girlfriend, not her history taking up space.

On the flipside you cannot really fault Walters characterization of the non-regulars as they are all done really well, with you getting clear imagery in your mind. It might not be needed, and it might just take up unnecessary space, but it’s very good. The president comes off best, showing a humanity which is lacking from many “good” characters. The Anthaurk threat is really just pantomime villainy, until the end but the threat they pose builds tension.

The Fall of Yquatine is an excellent book but one which tries far too hard. Story wise it’s spot on, and Walters has created a thriving system filled with different races, and included many different characters, most of which are done brilliantly. I can’t help but think Yquatine was part of Walters own sci-fi franchise which he tried to fit into a Doctor Who novel. I’d love to get more in depth with the area, as Walters obviously has it all thought out and a book with 280 pages just isn’t enough to do it justice. That said there is something oddly appealing about the novel, with it hooking you in once you get through the first 80 pages. Recommended.


Doctor Who: Shadows Of Avalon
Doctor Who: Shadows Of Avalon
by Paul Cornell
Edition: Paperback
Price: 7.19

5.0 out of 5 stars The Shadows of Avalon, 9 May 2014
The Shadows of Avalon by Paul Cornell is another novel I approached with apprehension. The cover blurb makes it appear to be a fantasy style novel in the same vein as The Scarlett Empress or The Blue Angel, neither of which I was over enamoured with. Also my only previous experience of Cornell is the Nu-Who episodes Fathers Day and Human Nature/The Family of Blood, both of which I found to be mediocre. Luckily Cornell has managed to craft a fairly decent fantasy style novel whilst still making it accessible to those of us who dislike the genre. Oh and there are also a huge plot twists for the series as we know it.

The Doctor and Fitz have left Compassion on Earth for 6 weeks to try to make her more human, as she goes to get picked up she meets an almost suicidal Brigadier. As they are chatting the TARDIS arrives and promptly explodes, sending all 4 of them into the realm of Avalon. Fitz and Compassion end up with an advisor who is trying to protect Avalon whilst the Doctor and Brigadier meet the Queen Regent. A rift between Avalon and Earth soon opens up with the advsior taking Fitz and Compassion to get help from the Unseelie Court. The Doctor and the Brigadier have a falling out after the latter calls in the army and makes an alliance with the Queen Regent. It soon transpires that all these events are being manipulated by two Time Lords, under orders from the President.

I don’t think I’ve seen the Eighth Doctor be this well written in a while with Cornell getting him spot on and giving him plenty to work with. Fitz and Compassion are almost absent for the first half of the novel with neither having much to do of interest. Fitz carries on having very little to do in the second half, but Compassion gets a lot to do thanks to , well I don’t want to spoil it but it’ss a great little plot twist.

The Brigadier is the youthful version from the Virgin New Adventure, Happy Endings, explicitly linking the two ranges. His wife is dead and the Brig blames himself so is getting angry and having lots of suicidal thoughts. This is a great plot line, but is then ruined by having him go all out military mode and annoying the Doctor. Thankfully Cornell does have him come to his senses and the later parts of his story are brilliantly done and highly emotional.

Sadly the Shadows of Avalon falls down with the supporting cast, mainly as it has so many of them. UNIT has its usual share of named soldiers we’ll never hear from again, the Celts have named people and the Unseelie Court has named people. Out of all of them only Queen Regent Mab is done really well, with the rest fading into the background. It isn’t a massive issue, as this novel is the Brig’s and Compassion’s but some of the build-up isn’t worth the payoff. The enemies are again not really enemies, a trend which seems to be prevailing throughout this spell of books. Cavis and Gandar are vicious murderers but are still acting on behalf of the President who is only acting for the safety of her people.

The Shadows of Avalon is a much better novel than I first thought it would be delivering a decent story and dealing massive plot devices for the range. It’s not the best novel in the range but it is thoroughly entertaining and well worth a read.


Doctor Who: Parallel 59
Doctor Who: Parallel 59
by Natalie Dallaire
Edition: Paperback

5.0 out of 5 stars Parallel 59, 30 April 2014
Parallel 59 is an Eighth Doctor novel by Natalie Dallaire and Stephen Cole. Natalie appears to only have ever written this book and Stephen Cole was in charge of the line at this time, which suggests that this book suffered from difficulties, not that you’d know it to read it.

The main premise of Parallel 59 is that the planet Skale is trying to reach out into space, but is divided into different parallels, each paranoid of the other. It’s obviously fiction, but it draws similar parallels (see what I did there?) with our own space race. The TARDIS crew land on a space station and have to abandon it, with Fitz taking one pod to the convalescent place of Mechta, and the Doctor and Compassion heading down to Skale. Fitz enjoys his new life, but the Doctor and Compassion are captured and tortured as spies. As the story progresses it appears Mechta isn’t all it appears, and neither are the space stations orbiting Skale.

The Doctor is on form throughout and actually gets a fair bit to do, which is nice given his lack of involvement in recent stories. Compassion has also finally cemented herself as a companion after her much needed character building in the previous novel, Frontier Worlds. She is still mysterious, but I felt connected to her for the first time since her introduction. The star of the show still is Fitz however with all his bits being an absolute joy to read. I really like the fact that he is basically a normal bloke in well over his head and just muddling through life as best he can. If I was trapped in a strange place away from my friends then I’d be shagging left, right and centre too. On the flipside you do see that the Doctor has rubbed off on him.

The staff at Parallel 59 are very well done, with only a few blurring into each other. The paranoia and tension makes for an interesting novel and it’s nice to see that none of them are truly evil, just out of themselves. There is a huge twist right at the end which I didn’t see coming, but felt entirely natural.

I really enjoyed Parallel 59, which given my initial apprehension about an unknown author being guided by the range manager was surprising. The more adult themes and general paranoia make a great novel and therefore I’d highly recommend it to all.


Doctor Who: Frontier Worlds
Doctor Who: Frontier Worlds
by Peter Anghelides
Edition: Paperback

4.0 out of 5 stars Frontier Worlds, 28 April 2014
I quite enjoyed Peter Anghelides previous Eighth Doctor adventure, Kursaal, despite the plot going off the boil a bit around the halfway mark so I was hopeful he’d manage to craft a more lasting story this time around.

The TARDIS crew are drawn to Drebnar by a signal and upon arrival The Doctor sends Fitz and Compassion to do some undercover work within Frontier Words Ltd, whilst he himself does some digging of his own. It soon transpires that Frontier Worlds are using an alien plant to alter genetics and must be stopped.

The Doctor is a little off in honesty and reads very much like the 3rd. I like this style of Doctor but it’s an Eighth Doctor novel. To compound matters he then goes missing for a huge chunk of the middle of the novel for absolutely no reason at all. This means that for the most part Frontier Worlds is truly a Fitz and Compassion novel. Both are well written, with the undercover sub-plot being very interesting to read and offering a much needed glimpse into Compassion’s psyche. Fitz is still as lovable as ever, more interested in shagging than doing any real work, either for Frontier Worlds or the Doctor but when push comes to shove he is there for him, albeit next to useless a lot of the time.

Anghelides has created a vivid world with Drebnar and filled it full of interesting characters. The Frontier Worlds founders are all as corrupt as they come and have prolonged their life using the alien plant to often disastrous effect. Sempitar comes off the worst, losing his sense of morality and is quite happy to extinguish life in the whole solar system just so he can make money.

Frontier Worlds is miles ahead of Kursaal but still isn’t quite as good as it could have been. The story and the characterization of everyone but the Doctor is excellent, but it does drag in some places and you can’t help think it could have been a good 40 pages shorter and suffer little ill effect for it.


Doctor Who: Last of the Gaderene: 50th Anniversary Edition (Doctor Who 50th Anniversary Collection)
Doctor Who: Last of the Gaderene: 50th Anniversary Edition (Doctor Who 50th Anniversary Collection)
by Mark Gatiss
Edition: Paperback
Price: 5.59

4.0 out of 5 stars Last of the Gaderene, 7 April 2014
Last of the Gaderene is a 3rd Doctor adventure by Mark Gatiss and his first novel since the lacklustre The Roundheads. I’ll be honest, I’m not a huge lover of Mark Gatiss. There is no doubting his passion for Doctor Who but he never manages to hit the mark for me, both in novel or in TV form. Last of the Gaderene is set during my all time favourite period of the show (3rd Doctor’s UNIT era) so hopefully Gatiss won’t ruin it for me.

Story wise, Gatiss gets it right but it’s hard not to with Earth based UNIT stories (although The Devil Goblins From Neptune almost managed it). The aerodrome in Culverton is a perfect setting for the story, and it falls nicely into a base under siege type story with an alien race attempting to take over the Earth.

There are slight annoyances though. Gatiss has a lot of plot threads going on at the beginning which whilst not confusing, slows the pace of the book down. I can’t help but feel a more Terrance Dicks style would have suited the story much better. We are also treated to two chapters of the Doctor coming to an end of a solo adventure for seemingly no reason whatsoever. Those things aside however and it’s hard not to love the story.

The 3rd Doctor is done well, especially in his pointless solo adventure bit, and Jo is also on top form as a companion who is on her way out. UNIT wise it’s more of what we expect from UNIT, with only the Brig really standing out by having to make some hard choices.

Supporting cast wise there are a lot of villagers, most of whom fall into the usual stereotypical villager role. Whistler as an ex-air force man is done really well, as his is unlikely partnership with teenager Noah, but they are the exception to the rule. Not that it really matters, as a Doctor Who by numbers isn’t a bad thing in the PDA’s.

The main threat are the Gaderene who are trying to take over the Earth under the guise of setting up a new airport. They do this by taking over bodies, which is an idea which has been done to death in recent adventures so no points for originality. The history behind them is pretty good though and they are being helped out an old foe who is always entertaining. Don’t really want to spoil it by letting you know who!

Last of the Gaderene is actually a pretty good effort from Gatiss. There minor annoyances, but on the whole I was pleasantly surprised with how much I did enjoy the novel. Highly recommended for fans of the era.


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