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on 18 April 2013
Oh dear. I really am so disappointed with this book. It started off with so much promise. Faces of the dead appearing out of the fog, rain drops on windows and coffee stains on desks. Sounds suitably spooky, and it is.

Then it all goes terribly wrong.

A trip through a "wormhole" to another planet and disaster. Up to this point I was just able cope with Donbavand's take on the eleventh Doctor. Some aspects were spot on. But it just got too much. This wasn't Matt Smith's Doctor, but a clown with no sign of a serious, intelligent side.

Then to top it all we're introduce to some new characters. Meet Wobblebottom and Flip Flop! Just two of a group of clowns now saving the survivors of their planet from the effects of the Shroud. Absolute drivel!

With Wobblebottom, Flip Flop and a hundred other clowns, the Doctor and Clara return to Earth through the "wormhole" riding in a very small clown car. Apparently clown cars are based on Timelord technology and are the only other dimensionally transcendental objects in the universe. Kill me now!

Whoever allowed this travesty of a Doctor Who story to be published, well, they should be sacked immediately.

What promised to be the most original and spooky story of the three new releases turned out to be the worst. A book to be ashamed of. Avoid at all costs.
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on 3 April 2015
This story varies between fascinating, creepy and silly. It is an interesting read certainly.
The 'monster' is revealed through disturbing faces, screaming and complaining about their treatment as they died - real horror movie stuff. The story takes a weird twist when a wormhole is discovered which links to the last world devastated by the monster. Then all goes weird - snow, tribes, polar bears, clowns, a submarine and giant tentacles. All neatly pulled together but stretching believability. The Doctor is manic throughout, and unfortunately Clara seems irritated most of the time. The setting of 1960's America was beyond my knowledge but I could see the point.
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23 November 1963, and PC Reg Cranfield is on duty at Totter's Lane when he sees a face that he should not be able to see. Then, on the same day, the Doctor and Clara arrive in Dallas, Texas to find that President J F Kennedy has been slain. Mae Callon, working on the Morning News issue also sees a familiar face from the past. What could these things have in common, and why does the Doctor see a threat nobody else can recognise?

This had the promise of a great story; with a spooky premise, and mysterious happenings set in a world that is relatable, Earth in 1963. But it all went rapidly downhill from there unfortunately.
There's an awful lot of this:
And this:
And characters called Flip Flop and Wobblebottom (!).
And the Doctor seems to be on some sort of permanent manic high which becomes rather wearing very quickly.

All in all, a vast disappointment of a Doctor Who novel.
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An original Doctor Who novel. Telling an all new adventure for the Eleventh Doctor and Clara that hasn't appeared before in any other medium.

It runs for two hundred and fifty three pages. There are sixteen chapters. Plus some shorter interlude ones.

The book is suitable for readers of all ages. As usual with this range the lead characters are pefectly written with dialogue that you can imagine them saying on tv. Which isn't bad given that this one came out before we'd seen much of Clara.

The story sees people across the world, in 1963, see visions of dead loved ones. Who prey on any guilts they might have about them. In a very extreme manner.

The shroud are breaking through into this world. Can the Doctor stop them? After all, he carries a lot of grief himself...

This follows a familiar narrative structure for this range, as it introduces the threat via what happens to supporting characters. Some of whom then get involved with the Doctor in trying to save the day.

The historical setting is well done. The alien threat of the story is a unique and intersting idea. And the writing does have aome good things to say about grief.

It all zips along nicely enough, at a good pace with some readable prose. There is one very good bit of humour as the result of something the Doctor tries.

But be aware that there is a tonal shift in the final quarter, in how some deal with the threat. Which actually does make sense if you let it sink in, but it contains humour of a kind that makes it a shift that may not work at all for many.

So this might be a love or hate it book. If it does work for you, though, then it's a four star read. Another capable time passer of a book in a range that is good at producing those.
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on 11 April 2013
An amazing novel from first time writer, (for Doctor Who) Tommy Donbavand. Already an established children's author, having previously read his 'Scream Street' series of books, I knew we were in for a treat and a wonderful journey with the Doctor and Clara.

After reading the prologue I was hooked and I was already imagining the "Dum de dum, dum de dum", of the theme tune blasting out, as if it had been written for the screen. Set in November 1963, it takes you back to the assassination of JFK, which historically, actually happened the day before the first screening of Doctor Who, 50 years ago. The novel introduces us to many new characters, both alien, serious and humourous and is the first I've read with the new, twice dead assistant, Clara Oswin Oswald. The author has a great gift for creating the dialogue between the Doctor and his new companion and (if you have watched the new series) you can imagine the tone and pace of the conversation between them. SPOILER ALERT! My ultimate favourite is on page 51:

He flashed a grin at Clara. "They're playing our song, dear."
Clara held out her hand. "Care to do the corridor quickstep?"

This sums up perfectly the relationship and bond that has been created between them in such a short time...and characteristically involves a lot of...yes, you've guessed it...RUNNING.!

The author has cleverly written in a way that has you feeling the entire spectrum of emotions, all of which the Doctor is forced to feel throughout the book and it was fabulous to read about the memories the Doctor has about some of the friends / companions he has lost over the years...very moving indeed.

However, amidst the serious and moving moments, there is plenty of humour. Again, the way it is written has you reading the words with the 'Doctor's voice' in your head, for example, (without giving any spoilers) the reference to Isambard Kingdom Brunel on page 25...hilarious and so typically the 11th Doctor!

If you are surprised by the appearance of some of the characters, or should I say names of some of the characters, then if you read his blog on his website, all will become clearer!

This book was released by the BBC at the same time as 2 others written by, what some would consider, more established writers of Doctor Who novels, Nicholas Briggs and Justin Richards. However, Tommy Donbavand holds his own as an established author and has proved beyond doubt that he can write an intriguing Doctor Who novel, up there with the best of them.

All in all, a great read and Tommy Donbavand has proved himself worthy of writing what I hope is not his last Doctor Who novel. It would be great to see him write for the screen with his ability to stay true to the dialogue and mannerisms of the characters, especially the quirkiness and eccentricities of the 11th Doctor.

Mr. Moffat, if you're reading this, take note!
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on 7 May 2013
This started out so promisingly. It is the day after the JFK killing and people are seeing the faces and hearing the voices of dead friends and family.....and then the faces scream!!!!!

This is the first book in the Doctor Who range to feature new assistant Clara and for the most part the author gets the characters spot on.

But's almost as if the author gave up being bothered half way through the story. The second half is extremely disappointing.

A poor end to what could have been a very good story.
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I reviewed this book as part of the Tommy V Cancer blog tour. When I signed up to take part, there were quite a few books that caught my eye, but I settled on this one for my review (and bought a couple more for later!) I’ve not read a Doctor Who book before, though I do have Time Lord Fairy Tales sat on my TBR.

On his website, Tommy says he’s a huge fan of Doctor Who, and this is really apparent in his writing. While you might think it’s easy to write about an established character – in this case the Doctor as played by Matt Smith – as the reader already knows what they look and sound like, I think it’s a lot harder. There’s an expectation to live up to and unlike a character that has only been written about, everyone has a similar if not identical idea of a TV character.

Donbavand captures the essence of the Eleventh Doctor perfectly. I could picture Matt Smith saying the lines and it all sounded like just the kind of weird and wonderful things he’d say. He got Clara spot on as well, and I could tell because I disliked her in the book as much as I do in the TV show – something about her just irritates me!

The story itself is a really interesting one, as the Earth is invaded by the Shroud, an alien that feeds on grief. It took a lot of twists and turns. Each time I thought they’d solved it and I knew where it was going, something new would crop up and leave me wondering again. It did get a little ridiculous towards the end, but it was all good fun and I loved the way everything came together.

This is definitely one for the hardcore Doctor Who fans. There’s a wonderful moment with flashbacks of the Doctors past, and as someone who’s only watched the modern episodes (Ninth Doctor onwards) I didn’t know who all of them were, but there was an Amy Pond moment that gave me all the feels. I’m told it’s full of references and I know I probably only understand half of them, but those I got I really enjoyed.

As my first time reading a Doctor Who book, I think I picked a great one, and I’d definitely be interested in picking some more up now. I’d love to see another from Tommy Donbavand too, as his passion for the character really shines through in the writing.
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on 15 January 2014

I want to post the blurb here, first of all.

"23 November, 1963

It is the day after John F. Kennedy's assassination - and the faces of the dead are everywhere. PC Reg Cranfield sees his late father in the mists along Totter's Lane. Reporter Mae Callon sees her grandmother in a coffee stain on her desk. FBI Special Agent Warren Skeet finds his long-dead partner staring back at him from raindrops on a window pane.
Then the faces begin to talk, and scream... and push through into our world.

As the alien Shroud begins to feast on the grief of a world in mourning, can the Doctor dig deep enough into his own sorrow to save mankind?"

You'd think that this is a relatively serious book, wouldn't you? One with quite a mature tone - after all, it does have a rather mature theme (death and the stages of grief), so you'd expect it to be a generally mature book, right?

And... well, I suppose it is in places. But in other places, it's the exact opposite. The tone is as malleable and inconsistent... clay in water? Does that analogy work? Probably not. But the point stands - the tone of this novel is ridiculous. You've some very serious moments on one end of the scale, such as the introductory scene for FBI Agent Warren Skeet (this scene fleshes out his backstory, and depicts the death of his former partner) but on the other side of things you have Wobblebottom.

Yeah, you read that right. Wobblebottom.
You see, around halfway through the novel the Doctor, Clara, Warren Skeet and Mae (another new character) travel to the previous world which the Shroud had attacked, and they find the remains of the civilization. In what should have been a very complex and intelligent segment of the novel, the Doctor & co find a group of crazed tribes, each defined by a separate feeling - different emotions took over after their grief was removed, and so they become Tremblers (fear) or Ragers (rage) or Wanters (averis). That's a pretty bold and interesting concept, I think, which should have been explored much more fully, and with a great deal more intelligence - instead we're soon introduced to Wobblebottom and Flip flop, leaders of the Circus resistance.
It's... it's a nice idea, that a Circus is trying to give people back their emotions through happiness... but it doesn't work, not in this scenario. It just undercuts everything that had been built up already. Not that much had, admittedly - the tone was always going to be an issue, what with the way the Doctor has been characterised in this novel. It's as though all the whimsy, all the jesting, all the not-at-all-serious-and-sometimes-borderline-irritating aspects of the Eleventh Doctor have been distilled and put into this (it really is a pastiche, the sort of thing you find in juvenile fan fiction. The Doctor even calls the TARDIS "sexy". Twice. Like... what?). It's a terribly misjudged piece of writing, one that doesn't deserve to be likened to Matt Smith's brilliant portrayal.

The other issue is a gratuitous overuse of continuity. And I mean that quite seriously - continuity is great, but this is too much. Way, way too much. A couple of examples -
> The policeman at Totter's Lane. (He's totally superfluous to the plot, sadly)
> 23 pages in, and we have a reference to Astrid. Seriously?
> The Fast Return switch is introduced in the most poorly written way ("What's that?" "Oh, it's the Fast Return switch") simply so it can be used as a plot device in a few pages time. (And it barely makes sense there either)

Given that the final confrontation is, essentially, a huge continuity fest (flashbacks from painful moments in the Doctor's lives) I would've expected all those little things to have been cut right down. They do get very, very distracting, and can bring you right out of it. Especially when it's wrong, for goodness' sake! (Admittedly, the larger moments - flashbacks and a joke sequence - do work very well, but they feel cheapened by all the other, prior references)

So... eh. This book was not a good one, to be honest. I'm not sure I'd reccomend it for anything beyond completion's sake, unless you enjoy that more whimsical tone of story. Certainly one to avoid if you're expecting a serious novel, in the vein of prior stories (I was actually expecting this to be sort of similar to Vampire Science, but... it couldn't be further removed from it)

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on 30 April 2013
As a Doctor Who story this novel is fairly average. It is a reasonably standard plot where aliens try to take over the Earth through a particular medium, in this case the images humans perceive within abstract patterns formed by things like clouds and tea leaves. It is a very interesting idea (and quite amusing when you consider that it means that those people who see the Virgin Mary appearing in everyday objects could really be seeing aliens). It also fits in quite well with some of the recent TV stories where the threat is somewhat insidious through things all around us (there are certainly some similarities between it and `The Bells of St. John'). However, the rest of the novel fails to live up to this intriguing concept.

It starts well, being fairly intriguing and atmospheric, and entices the reader in. About quarter of the well through though the secret of the Shroud is already virtually revealed and there isn't really much more to say about them. The novel then degenerates into a bit of a slapstick run around. The Eleventh Doctor, although primarily based reasonably close to Matt Smith's mannerisms and take on the Doctor, gets more and more carried away until he becomes an odd caricature of himself. Having some of the major characters being called `Wobble Bottom' and `Flip Flop' doesn't help matters. The book really does become a bit silly. Considering its promising start this is a shame.

Clara plays a very generic companion role and there isn't really much of her individual character. Which is a shame considering that this is her first novel appearance. This is excusable though as she probably hadn't appeared in the programme when this book was written.

The setting of the story feels like a lost opportunity. It seems a pity that more wasn't made out of the 23rd November 1963, despite a few confirmations of the date which feel a little forced, being as it is an auspicious date for both human history and the fictional world of Doctor Who. Although the JFK assassination has something to do with the plot many other events from history would have sufficed.

There are quite a few references to past Doctor Who which, although not particularly subtle, are not intrusive upon the story. They give the book a pleasant sense of celebration of the fiftieth anniversary.

Whereas most of the better Doctor Who books perfectly tread the balance of appealing to both children and adult readers this novel completely misses the mark. The early stages are quite adult (dealing with the sorrow and guilt of loss and some relatively scary scenarios) but the latter stages become very childish at times and the overall tone is very different.
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on 24 May 2015
I think when dealing with such an appalling real historical event, the author has to be very respectable about how the story they’ve written interacts with real events.
Fortunately Donbavand just uses the JFK assassinations as the back-story (there’s no plot involving the Doctor attempting to save the president’s life).
Donbavand has studied the doctor’s character really well, picking up all his little nuances, to create a fast paced enjoyable story, & in spite of the backdrop to the novel, quite funny in places. Plus it has one of the best finales for a Doctor Who book I've ever read.
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