This review is from: Doctor Who: Unnatural History (Mass Market Paperback)
Unnatural History is an Eighth Doctor Adventure by Jonathan Blum and Kate Orman which deals with the "Dark Sam" concept which has been hinted at previously. Blum and Orman are two of the most talented Doctor Who writers and actually managed to get me enjoying Sam back in their previous novel Seeing I so I was hopeful for more of the same.
Dark Sam is an alternative version of Blonde Sam who stayed in London, did lots of drugs, and now lives in a dirty bedsit, with a crappy job. Until this point in time nothing has been explained about her existence and the novel starts with the Doctor tracking down Dark Sam as Blonde Sam got caught up in an anomaly in San Francisco. On returning to San Francisco they meet up with Fitz who has been investigating unusual behaviour caused by the anomaly.
It turns out the anomaly was caused by the Doctor's "birth" at his regeneration in San Francisco and that Blonde Sam was possibly created from this. Now however the anomaly is at breaking point, only being held together by the TARDIS. To top off the troubles, a collector is after the Doctor and Dark Sam for his collection. I loved the concept of the Dark Sam storyline but the trouble is this brilliance of it is merged in with what can only be described as mess of concepts. Unnatural History seems to flit from one scene to another without explanation, some are really humorous, other deeply bleak.
The Doctor is well done which isn't a surprise given Blum and Orman's previous characterization in Vampire Science and Seeing I. He is worried about his TARDIS which he is using to contain the anomaly and the prospect of not being able to travel and being forced to settle down. Fitz is now in full companion mode, he seems used to the Doctor and has learned to deal with time travel and strange occurrences. Blum and Orman really write well for him, getting his insecurities and his attitude down perfectly. A lot of people seem to criticize his characterization here, but I found nothing wrong with it at all.
Obviously the novel is about Sam, and again the authors have managed to make her interesting. Dark Sam is a breath of fresh air, cigarettes, drugs, sex and an attitude to boot she really is the opposite of Blonde Sam and therefore so much better. She seduces the Doctor with ease, something Blonde Sam took an age to even try, and even beds Fitz. Blonde Sam isn't a good character, she's never felt right in the role, and never struck a chord with the readers. I'd liked to have seen more of her in the range.
Unnatural History also features a host of supporting characters but very few of them make sense, with only Faction Paradox being particularly interesting.
Unnatural History is an odd novel, at times it's brilliant and almost as good as Lawrence Miles's Alien Bodies, but at others it seems to lose its way and introduces us to concepts which just don't seem relevant to the story. I honestly went from thinking it was the best novel yet to hating it, to thinking it was brilliant again. Definitely one for fans of the Eighth Doctor novels only.