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4.6 out of 5 stars
Doctor Who: Harvest of Time
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on 17 August 2014
How to add anything to the vast body of justified positive reaction to Harvest of Time?

There is next to nothing to fault.

Alastair Reynolds reminds us that Jon Pertwee's time as Doctor Who was something to celebrate, not leave out in the cold. He captures Roger Delgado's performance as the Master wistfully well, and uses the scope of the prose form to add unexpected depth. Katy Manning's Jo Grant jumps off the page too, with the addition of a little inner life of her own. He even pays wheezing, groaning homage to the Target house style.

"Harvest of Time" runs nose to nose with, and maybe a little ahead of, Mark Gatiss's "Last of the Gaderene". With all the right notes in the right order, it's a reminder that an untarnished English 1970s pop culture icon should be treasured to the last smear of video flare and frame of grainy location film.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 15 May 2014
It's Alastair Reynolds and it's Doctor Who. If you are a fan of both then you should buy this book. At least, that's what I thought...

The novel begins with a wonderfully nasty prologue and Reynolds fluid prose style engages immediately. There's a brilliant death in chapter one that could have been lifted straight out of a Terrance Dicks or Malcolm Hulke novelisation (Who fans will know what I'm talking about here), and chapter two opens with the best description of a North Sea oil platform I think I've ever read. Here Reynolds is in fine form, writing Doctor Who using all the skills he brings to bear in his own sci-fi novels with no compromise. Brilliant!
As it progresses through its early stages, the story continues to wonderfully evoke the style and flavour of the 3rd Doctor UNIT era: The mystery of the oil rigs develops and the cast of regular characters is joined by some fully-rounded, yet still typically 3rd Doctor-ish types, including: 'recalcitrant rig boss', 'crazy wild-eyed survivor of alien attack', 'sinister Men from the Ministry', 'doomed yokel', 'doomed policeman', and of course (unmistakeably Roger Delgado's) The Master. (It's no surprise he's involved since he's mentioned in the blurb.)

There are so many things to like about this novel: the aliens are deliciously nasty and very well-realised (I would expect nothing less), the regular characters are true to their 1970s TV likenesses (likewise) and, like the best of the novelisations of that era, they are given depth and room to breathe - particularly Jo Grant. Reynolds' own characters are just as solid and 'real' but to be honest, from a renowned sci-fi novelist of Reynold's calibre, I would expect this to be so. The set-pieces are exciting to read and beautifully cinematic - easy to imagine this as the 3rd Doctor movie that never was. During the sequences onboard the big dumb object in orbit around the alien planet, as well as on the planet itself, we are in standard Alastair Reynolds territory. The derelict ship is dark and vast whilst the planet below it is a beautiful world, very well-realised.

In fact the whole thing seems to have been treated with some real respect and love for 1970s Doctor Who. In his acknowledgements at the back of the book Reynolds seems genuinely bowled over by the fact he got to write a Doctor Who novel! And why not? Despite all his successes in the field, this seems to have been a project he was delighted to be involved with. Clearly, Jon Pertwee's era of Doctor Who was a big influence for Reynolds, and it's wonderful of him to acknowledge it in such a public way.

The problem is.... the problem is that once the initial glow of nostalgia had faded, I stopped enjoying the novel. All that remained when that had gone was a pretty dull story. I felt underwhelmed probably from about two-thirds of the way in. What was really problemmatic I guess was the fact I didn't really buy into the key plot event regarding the Master. Given that the plot was by now being driven by this turn in the story, if I didn't buy it then I was always going have issues. Another problem concerns the fact that 21st Century Doctor Who on TV has a tendency towards circular plots that involve all-sorts of (ahem) 'Timey-Wimey stuff'. Here I got the feeling here that Reynolds was attempting to tie into that without losing the credibility of the 3rd Doctor's world he'd so beautifully evoked in the first half of the story. This is fine in principle, and I sort of trusted him to deliver a cracking climax on the back of his set-up. The problem was that I don't think he did deliver. In fact the climactic denouement was a real let-down. The big surprises at the end were not surprising at all, although to be honest - because of the whole Master thing - I just didn't care by then. He'd lost me. Also - while I'm on the subject - wasn't the Master in prison on TV in 'The Sea Devils'? In a much less hi-tech installation than this one?

In fact, as the remaining page-count diminished and the end of the novel approached, I increasingly felt as though I'd both read and seen better than this many times before, both in Doctor Who and even in Reynolds' own work. Not only that but I got the feeling that Reynolds was coming perilously close to cheating at the end of the novel, using his timey-wimey shenannigans to short-circuit his plot the way that JJ Abrams did in his first Star Trek movie (in which future Spock gives the Enterprise heroes every bit of future magic they need to defeat the bad guy and save the Earth).

"Harvest of Time" is not quite that bad. I think Reynolds just about gets away with not cheating here, but I think I'm also being somewhat forgiving because I'm such a nerdy fan. I guess my feeling is that the way the plot plays out in this novel is just 'ordinary'. The story ticks the boxes, it's all OK, but given the 'Sensawunder' most of Reynolds novels usually play around with, and given that at the start of the novel that same sense of wonder is right here on the first page, it all just gets a bit 'meh' towards the end. A bit 'by the numbers'. (Notice I'm using learned terminology here!) A bit ... dull.

It's a personal opinion, and others may well disagree because there is still so much to like (hence the 'Mixed Feelings'), but in the end a kind of 'so-what?' apathy fell over me as the thing dragged on.

In conclusion then, my feeling is that despite some brilliant Alastair Reynolds flourishes, some depth of character and a beautifully evoked period together with a sense of scale that the TV Doctor Who of the early 70s never had, it was ultimately a disappointment. It's not a bad novel, there is lots to like about it, but I felt that it could and should have been a better novel.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
I was very exicted about the prospect of a Doctor Who book by Alastair Reynolds, but also a bit nervous (memories of Michael Moorcock's efforts). This book was a total triumph. Alastair Reynolds has taken his skill as a sci-fi writer, and his obvious knowledge of and love for classic Doctor Who and written a brilliant Third Doctor story. Set after the Sea Devils story, this has the Third Doctor as portrayed by Jon Pertwee teamed up against Roger Delgado's Master. Old friends, older adversaries, the shared heritage that the Doctor and the Master have always showed through in unique ways in the Third Doctor era stories. And this has been captured perfectly in this story.

The Doctor and Jo investigate issues on oil rigs north of the coast of Scotland. Unknown to them, a small team from the Ministry of Defence is also doing some research of their own, utilising the skills of Prisoner M - a top security prisoner being held at the Durlston Heath complex under total lockdown. Or is he?

This story utilises the brilliant classic Third Doctor, Jo, and the UNIT team with the Brigadier, Mike Yates, Benton. There are helicopter rides, aliens from time and space, Timelord history, and good old 1970 English life portrayed in the book. The aliens are suitably alien, the bad guys are suitably evil, the Master and the Doctor are perfectly portrayed, down to mannerisms and conversational patterns. The author has written a total `classic' Doctor Who story, and one that will rightfully take pride of place in the Doctor Who novelisations. (But I did feel sorry for the cows!). I heartily hope that Mr Reynolds has plans to write some more Doctor Who.

Totally recommended.
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17 of 20 people found the following review helpful
on 8 June 2013
Finally!!! And THANK YOU Alastair Reynolds, Mr, Sir. This lovingly written book is a complete gem. It perfectly captures the spirit of the Pertwee era right down to the smallest detail - like Mike Yates eating a ham sandwich, much to the annoyance of the Brigadier. You can actually remember seeing that scene on the black and white telly in the corner of your parent's living room. This book is THAT good. The dialog between the main characters rings so MANY familiar bells, you can hear every word just as if it was being spoken by the actors who played the roles.

If this WAS an actual aired story from the Pertwee era we would all (still) be talking about it even now as a 'classic'. Its as if Reynolds was channelling Malcolm Hulke AND Barry Letts, whilst Terrance Dicks looked on and occasionally passed him scribbled notes on continuity.

Sit back, open this book, and be transported back to saturday teatime, 1972ish.
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on 8 May 2015
This book really begins to warm up as you pass the twenty five percent mark, and the story manages to turn everything upside down. The reader may well discover at this point that characters they assumed to be bad turn out to be only half bad, whilst the Obviously Bad Characters from the start are still Obviously Bad. As in World-Threateningly-Obviously-Bad.

This book is about the long buried and long forgotten race of aliens called “SILD” who were thought by all concerned to be destroyed after trying to change time, alter the universe, and generally, mis-behave on an inter-galactic level. It turns out they weren’t quite killed off, and through a flaw in standard time-space continuum mechanics, they have managed to free themselves from their “prison” just in time to help another baddie from the book escape his own prison. Which sounds quite convenient from a story-telling perspective, but there’s nothing “convenient” about this book. This is genius at work.

Time itself has a major role to play in is story, which does not make it at all confusing. But adds greatly to the book’s entertainment factor.

This is a “Doctor Three” novel, as played by the brilliant Jon Pertwee way back when. The only flaw in writing about their (3’s, and Jo’s) adventures in time and space, based in this time zone, is that the reader may find themselves unfamiliar with the version of Earth that is portrayed by the author. Mr Reynolds, I must say, has done a fantastic job. The story is highly entertaining, and relatively amusing. It works on all levels. And that is coming from me, a book lover who has not read a Doctor Who novel since he was knee high to K-9!

Obviously you can’t call HARVEST OF TIME a hard core sci-fi novel, but Whovians are an existential lot. And smarter than your average book worm, too. They, more than anyone, know how to read between the lines and there is plenty of opportunity for thought provoking prose to be found within the 365 glorious pages of this relatively (there’s that word again!!!) new release.

Quite magnificent time-sprawling, space-travelling fun.

A hugely well-deserved four stars from me.

Now I’m off to my local ABC Shop to buy some classic old Dr Who Episodes...

BFN Greggorio!
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on 30 April 2014
This is a well written and entertaining Doctor Who story that, for the most part, ably captures the style, feel and essence of the Jon Pertwee tenure, particularly the middle years with Jo Grant. As such some of it is exactly what might be expected from a more UNIT orientated story, certainly in the first half. However, much of the early stages of the novel with oil rigs in Scotland can’t help but be more reminiscent of the last typical style UNIT story, ‘Terror of the Zygons’, and there are also a splattering of references to 2000s Who included.

There is some good characterisation of Jo and a good portion of the novel is virtually from her perspective. She and Yates have a fair involvement in events to start with but their roles, and that of UNIT, become less prevalent. As the novel progresses it becomes less about UNIT and far more about the relationship between the Doctor and the Master. This seems to be an area the author is keen to explore and, although it is fun to revisit, at times perhaps the novel gets a little bogged down with it, detracting from the plot.

Although the interaction between them is enjoyable it is a little more ‘friendly’ than the televised portrayals and there is less of the acerbic wit that was so much fun. The relationship between the Doctor and the Master also seems a little unbalanced in the novel, the Master often being portrayed as seemingly far more intelligent and capable than the Doctor. In many ways this is more of a story about the Master than the Doctor. It might well be the most illuminating story about the Master yet.

Most of the time, especially in the earlier Earthbound sections, the author is quite clearly portraying the Roger Delgado incarnation of the Master and does a fairly good job of capturing it. However, little hints of various other incarnations begin to creep in at times. But this is fair enough considering some of the content of the story. The Doctor on the other hand doesn’t really come across very strongly as being the Third. His characterisation slips into a more generic image of the Doctor and, in the absence of UNIT personnel, it could easily be several of the other incarnations.

The Sild are a promising alien menace. But despite being initially interesting they soon become little different to possessed people, duplicates or zombies. There also seems to be a bit of a ‘Star Gate’ influence to them.

There are some nice ideas within the novel and good use of space and time. The twists to the story can sometimes be somewhat easy to work out though.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
A story involving the third Doctor, Jo Grant, Unit, and others. This feels very much like season 8 with perfectly recognisable characters. These ARE the versions of your much-loved characters and Alistair Reynolds deserves buckets of praise for this book.

The main plot involving activities on oil rigs feels so right and a fast pace makes this story rattle along nicely. The scenes where the first aliens appear are particularly tense.

I wish all Doctor Who books could be this good.
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on 25 April 2015
ABSOLUTELY EXCELLENT! I have listened to a fair number of Who cast audio CDs, and some audio narrative such as this, and without question, even though this is the longest by far (10 CDs) and lacking any key adversaries (Dales, Cybermen, etc) somehow this story stands head and shoulders above the rest. It's based on John Pertwee's Dr Who, and you can truly imagine him speaking all the way through, and the master too, plus the rest of the cast (Jo, Brigadier). Although this one's based in the not-so-recent (1974?) so the Doc's not so familiar to the newer generation of viewers anyone who can recall him can immediately identify the role as the story is read along.
I've listened to a number of unabridged stories narated, initailly wary that I may not enjoy them as much as a full-cast drama, and because this is so long (almost 12 hours) I worried that it would be padded out with boring bits but I was so wrong. This is the best written and read, and most captivating of all the Who audios I've had the grand pleasure of listening to which I do on my way to and from work (hour each way).
RECOMMENDED - by me anyway.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 27 August 2013
A fantastic classic .story set during the Doctor's Third Regeneration (Jon Pertwee) featuring the Master and of course UNIT, Well written with a deadly swam in the Sild. For those of us old enough to remember the original series pre the re launch and ideal for new fans to discover the past
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This books concerns the 3rd Doctor and his nemesis the Master. The master being caught by UNIT troups is at best a difficult prisoner to keep in jail, but when some other agency wants to use this renegade Timelords' knowledge for a weapons system it is asking for trouble.

And trouble comes in the form of an invasion of Earth, primarly aimed at capturing the Master and secondary destroying the earth and its resources. The Doctor has got save the Master from dissapearing from timelines and at the same time figuring out how to repel those pesky invaders.

It will take the Doctor & the Master to stop one or both goals, can the Doctor trust the Master?

A great book that returns a very good version of the 3rd Doctor, a great plot and some great interaction between important figures in the Who-lore. A great read for Who-fans or scifi fans.
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