Doctor Who: Vanderdeken's Children Mass Market Paperback – 3 Aug 1998
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Some Doctor Who novels can leave the reader wishing they could be seen and not just read. The beautifully written and passionately inspiring Vanderdeken's Children is one of those novels. Christopher Bulis has taken some of the best elements of science fiction and blended them with a dash of horror to create a story that resonates with clever plotting and beautiful visuals.
Two starships from the rival systems of Nimos and Emindar find themselves facing off around a huge and unknown alien space craft. This craft is being claimed for salvage by both systems and neither is prepared to back down. The Doctor arrives unexpectedly and, when things start to get difficult, offers his and Sam's help to the Emindar captain. They head off down to the alien ship and discover... But to say more would perhaps spoil this brilliant tale of time travel, rivalry and big dumb objects hanging in space.
Bulis' alien ship does nothing but exist, but in doing so it provides the basis for almost every aspect of the novel. As events move on, so we discover more about the ship and its horrific inhabitants, and the imagination that Bulis has applied here is nothing short of superb. The ship is a brooding character and its alienness is emphasised well. From the strange pipe-like patterning on its surface to mysteriously coded hatchways and a vast, apparently empty interior, it dominates the story.
Vanderdeken's Children is a novel that demandes reading and re-reading. It's an exciting and gripping story, full of good characters and an excellent premise. If nothing else, it's perhaps the way Doctor ought to be for the nineties. Get it filmed now. --David J Howe
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Top Customer Reviews
The Doctor and Sam stumble across a derelict space ship which is being claimed by two different nations at the same time, the trouble is the ship is seemingly protected by unknown forces and both sides struggle to get a foothold. Once finally on the vessel, it soon becomes clear that the craft isn't quite as abandoned as first thought when the crews are attacked by "ghosts".
Vanderdeken's Children has extensive use of science fiction and technology, which I enjoy as long as it makes sense. Bulis has managed to do just that, creating believable scenarios with complex themes without too much technobabble so even someone of my limited capabilities can understand it. The ending is a little bit too complicated, and takes a few reads over to fully comprehend what has happened.
Bulis' characterization is fine, the Doctor and Sam are both done satisfactorily and the supporting cast are interesting and well written. The enemy ghosts, are truly chilling and the story behind them is well done and interesting.
In short Vanderdeken's Children is a surprisingly mature, intelligent and atmospheric 8th Doctor novel from Christopher. Whilst not overly memorable it deals with some thought provoking and challenging themes and still serves as a decent Eighth Doctor novel.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
This is the hardest Science-Fiction story that the Doctor Who series has had in a while. Derelict spacecrafts, time paradoxes, hyperspace tunnels, and echoes from the future all feature heavily. The Doctor and Sam get to play Sherlock Holmes and Watson while helping two different human factions uncover the mystery of an abandoned alien ship that's apparently home to some familiar ghosts. The plot is genuinely interesting and I was kept on the edge of my seat waiting to see how it would unfold.
The characterization is uniformly shallow with one or two sections where it descends into tedium. I couldn't see how the subplot concerning the husband, wife and the other woman made any difference to the story. I realize that they were also experiencing the same sort of future echoes that the rest of the passengers were and I thought it was a good idea to show some of the other effects of the time loop. But while it made for a diversion from the main action, it was not an interesting one, and in my opinion it should have either been strengthened or cut from the book entirely. Every time that section came up, I inwardly groaned at the clichéd dialogue and the stereotypical "tough wife and passive husband" relationship.
But as this was mainly a plot driven story, the characterization didn't distract from it all that much. There are a few places at the end where the explanation about the future time lines seemed to fall apart. I was especially annoyed at the eventual explanation for what the origin of the ship was. However, overall this was a very good book and I highly recommend it for fans of the book series or for people who are unfamiliar to the Doctor Who format. The book seems specially designed for beginners to the line and starts off with a short and unobtrusive introduction to the main characters, the TARDIS and the series particulars.
This one really isn't any exception. The Doctor, noticing an anomaly, decides to drop anchor at a spot where two ships from warring empires have just come upon an alien spacecraft of unknown origin. Before long both sides are jockeying for control of it, which would be fine except that mysterious events are beginnning to occur and the ultimate origin of the ship isn't what anyone expects.
It's fairly creepy, especially when nobody knows what's going on, and Bulis is good at building atmosphere, with ghosts and ghostly voices and so on. But it's just hard to care about anyone here, they all feel like stock character types, everyone has one personality trait and drives it right into the ground, or they follow predictable arcs (the seemingly brave fellow who is actually a coward is able to overcome his fear in a moment of glory right before he's ruthlessly cut down . . . raise your hand if you were surprised) . . . everyone hates everyone else. Even the subplots aren't that exciting, with a henpecked husband beset by a shrew of a wife finally learning to stand up to her in the midst of all the chaos. I didn't see the stabbing coming, though, so I'll give him that.
Meanwhile, the Doctor is being inscrutable but not in that "I'm manipulating everything but you don't know it" fashion of the Seventh Doctor . . . he seems to have some idea of what's going on but either refuses to say or never gets a chance to, which means that everyone flounders about until he finally gets around to explaining it. The crux of the matter depends on a paradox that is actually pretty well thought out, even if I do imagine a map of it taking up an entire wall of the author's house. I'm sure it falls apart under really close scrutiny but if you're examinig the temporal paradoxes of "Doctor Who" closely, we need to have a talk.
But the dangers, creepy at first, eventually become kind of tedious, all the paradoxing threatens to hurt the mind and our heroes don't do anything really memorable except the Doctor juryrigs a magic device to make everything all better. I'm not even sure why Sam was here. Mildly entertaining while you're reading it, if you need a fix it'll get the job done but otherwise it's kind of empty calories.
This book is chaotic and dangerous, with a titanic sense of scale, supported by gravitas and sheer wonder. It would be a mystery story, but the exposition comes just-in-the-nick, with few opportunities to guess ahead. Despite the reader's frustrated desire to answer one question raised on every page - "WTF?!" - the ride is a thrill, the package is solid, and the revelations will make your head snap and your hands applaud.
Because the story (eventually) becomes deeply steeped in time travel and its side effects, the POV, and other aspects of delivery, get chaotic. The beginning feels pedestrian in parts, but I think this is unavoidable, in retrospect - the pacing eventually skyrockets, so the slower beginning was required to establish characters, to give the reader reasons to care.
The book loses one star for the beginning, which nearly made me put the book down for its pacing and its hop-skip-jump approach to settings; and for being so chaotic later that I literally felt dizzy, trying to fully absorb events and implications before turning the page. But these aren't really complaints - they're more like symptoms. My advice is to force yourself through the beginning until Stuff Officially Happens, and then take the rest of the book in manageable nibbles, lest it leave your brain with bruises.
Not for easily-intimidated readers, and not for anyone who dislikes confusion or rough rides, but highly recommended for everyone else.