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on 8 February 2002
In the world of Doctor Who novels a new work by Lawrence Miles is an event. His previous works, Alien Bodies and Interference, and his New Adventure Dead Romance, have a scale and a depth that is lacking from most of the long running series predecessors. Miles has ambition for the series, and sadly, many traditional Doctor Who fans, do not realise that it is on the printed page that the future of the series now lies - and it is through playing with form and style that Doctor Who will continue to justify its existence.
With Lawrence Miles new novel, The Adventuress of Henrietta Street, Doctor Who fiction has been delivered the Miles book long promised through the midwife of series editor, Justin Richards. This is a new start for the series, and coming after an impressive series of novels including Loyd Rose's City of the Dead, Kate Orman's The Year of Intelligent Tigers, and Simon Bucher-Jones and Kelly Hale's Grimm Reality, suggests a bright future for the series.
It is difficult to write too much about this novel without giving away key plot elements. However, to attempt. The Doctor is sick, stranded in eighteenth century London in a brothel run by Scarlette, the eponymous heroine. Without his TARDIS, and initially without his companions, the Doctor is sick. Strange demon apes (babewyns) roam London's streets. They kill and devour those in their way. And a bulky character, Sabbath, appears in a metal ship crewed by trained babewyns, pledged to defend time. This novel deals with the loose ends left hanging by the big bang from The Ancestor Cell, and throws up enough plot strands to suggest a bright future for the series.
The novel reintroduces an old friend (although they are never named), and features two controversial elements that will keep the Doctor Who fanbase arguing for years to come.
Aside from the controversy, though, the novel merits the description in the title - the finest Eighth Doctor adventure. Appreciating that Doctor Who lies on the page, Miles (along with Paul Magrs one of the more sophisticated writers of the series), turns in a stylistic tour de force. Reminding this reader of William Boyd's fake biography Nat Tate, Miles writes a history. Freed from the obligation on an author to be omniscient, omnipotent, and omnipresent, Miles writes a history based on testimonies. Whether or not events occurred are couched with doubts and questions. Referring to many sources - from Scarlette, Sabbath, the Doctor, masonic records, secret service records, and the tesimonies of various prostitutes - strands are pulled together. The plot is never overwhelmed by style. But the halting nature of the historical narrative leaves loose ends, uncertainties. This is what the series needed. This is a novel that bears rereading, but also suggests a new way forward. The Doctor, in assuming the mantle of Earth's champion, and Sabbath, there to protect time, sets fair for a new conflict in the series.
This was a most enjoyable read. And as well as the big picture Miles puts in some jokes (I enjoyed the conflict between the prostitutes in Manchester, where the southerners wear red and black, the locals, blue and white rosettes.) One hopes that Miles returns to the series again very soon; and, also, that his ambition extends beyond Who. Here is a novelist that - in fantasy or science fiction - could play with ideas, and write big important novels.
If you enjoyed this read Alien Bodies or Interference, Miles' last two series defining volumes.
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on 26 July 2008
Here's the thing, if you are intent on reading the series in order, as I am, then you simply must read this book, there are changes that will surely have repercussions later in the series.

That said I can't say I enjoyed reading the book, I found it really long winded. I've read and enjoyed the author's previous EDA novels, but I couldn't get to grips with the frankly odd way it is written, it has a peculiar perspective that just didn't sit well with me.

Others I know love it; I think it's just that kind of book you'll love it or hate it, either ways it needs to be read for novels to follow.
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on 27 February 2002
Thank goodness for writers like Lawrence Miles, who are determined to laugh in the face of tradition and provide something truly refreshing.
Henrietta Street is a worryingly complex book, and Miles' absorption in historical narrative is apparent not only in the detail, but the length of this book (the text size is miniscule, indicating his anxiousness to have the unedited story published.
The book totally defies conventional criticism, since it is by no means a conventional work. Lawrence Miles has created a tortuous world, which blends the hard-edged realism of the 18th Century prostitution scene with surreal and expressionistic intervals in the world of the Apes.
It would be easy to dismiss this book as being a cynical exploitation of current film phenomena: specifically Moulin Rouge and Planet of the Apes. Clearly if you subscribe to this point of view, you have failed to appreciate the depth of Miles' prose. His historical-narrative style is punctuated with revitalizing anecdotal asides that leaven the palpably ominous tone of the book. The barbarity of the Apes, along with the cloak-and-dagger mysticism of the multiple factions in the novel, makes for often harrowing reading.
Although the book is undoubtedly an experience, it could never be mistaken for an enjoyable one. Henrietta Street is simply so unconventional and so blatantly radical that it will never be recognized as a Doctor Who story as such. In the short months since its release, it has the kind of die-hard following that is associated only with books that are loathed by the majority of their readership. The Adventuress of Henrietta Street is nothing if not esoteric.
In fact, it is rather a pity it was a Doctor Who story at all, since it suffers from comparison to more traditional outings. Any such comparison is futile, however. Henrietta Street is as comparable to its close cousins as chalk is to cheese.
Lawrence Miles' magnum opus was destined from its inception to languish in the awkward 'love it or hate it' category. This is probably just as well: there is a faintly perverse buzz one gets from being in a derided minority.
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VINE VOICEon 8 November 2001
This is a terrific book, which sets new standards for the Doctor Who line. It's written as an historical narrative, a secret history of physical and metaphysical battles of truly epic proportions. Some may find the prose style difficult to get into, but persevere, it adds a dimension of unreliablitity appropriate to the plot. Radical change is afoot in the Doctor Who universe, old certainties no longer hold, and the very identity and mission of the Doctor are challenged and made new. Aware of continuity, Miles transforms familar tropes daringly and satisfyingly. This book lives up to his reputation as the line's most radical author. One can only hope that the implications for the future this book sets up are explored with as much panache in subsequent books.
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on 3 February 2002
What a fantastic book. At first it's a bit difficult to adjust to the writing style (like a historians research) but once you do it's a brilliant read. It credits it's readers with intelligence by not explaining everything in detail but allowing you to reason things out yourself and it also sets up some very interesting questions for future books (i.e. about the Master)
Buy, read, think and enjoy
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on 8 November 2001
Presented as a history of the dark days of the later 18th century, this book stretches the envelope of what Doctor Who fiction can do like no other book. The plot is just the right side of baffling, and answers a lot of questions raised in the last year or so of the books. Miles's reputation as someone who'll shake things up a bit is further consolidated here in prose that marks a step up from his already impressive standard.
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on 17 October 2002
I was expecting to hate this book, but to my surprise it's rather good. It's written in the style of a historical text, and replete with background material and non-linear narrative, but shockingly easy to read for all that. Admittedly, it does strain credibility that such a detailed account of the lives of a bunch of eighteenth-century prostitutes would be possible, or that quite so many of them would be literate, but it's not all that glaring.
The story finds the Doctor and the prostitutes trying to save the world from some mysterious carnivourous apes. But the real story here is to introduce Sabbath, who is being set up to be a recurring foe for future stories. He gets a good introduction, and is established - just about - as a being close to the Doctor's level without him actually having to do much. Still, he's a good character and it's a disappointment as he fades out towards the end.
The Master is also in this book, and seems to hint that he'll be back too. Lawrence Miles writes a great Master, but overall I'm not convinced that it's possible to salvage the character after twenty of years of appearing in generally pretty awful stories. We'll see.
If this book has a flaw, it's the climax, or lack thereof. After 280-odd pages of tiny letters, you might expect more than the Doctor waving his - well, I won't give the ending away. The end is better than it was in Interference (Mile's previous book), but there's no getting away from it being an anticlimax.
But, if you're willing to view this as Chapter 1 of the next stage of the Doctor's adventures, it really is quite excellent.
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on 6 March 2013
A brilliant start to a new era of EDAS in a post-Gallifrey universe, no one but Lawrence Miles could have written this mastpiece
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