Room with No Doors (New Doctor Who Adventures) Mass Market Paperback – 20 Feb 1997
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The Doctor and Chris arrive in 16th century Japan to find the locals preparing for war over a god that f ell from the sky. Aliens too are interested in the god. The Doctor has to quell the war madness to prevent massive destr uction. '
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Away from all this, the books still works well as stand alone story. Perhaps its main flaw is that you need that know alot about the preceeding books, but the japanese setting is interesting and well researched and the characters are well done (particularly Penelope Gate, who subsiquent BBC books imply is the Doctor's mother). Its also Chris' best appearance when he's not the emotional, complusive counter point to Roz or a manipulated pawn of the Time Lords. He gets to grow up and except who his, in much the same way that the Doctor comes to except that his death is approaching.
Overall the novel is Orman's usual mix of the bizarre and the plain unintelligible; fortunately there appears to be a dull light flickering at the end of this, rather murky tunnel...
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The story is set in Sixteenth Century Japan, where enigmatic samurai stalk the land on horseback, and feudal lords dream of defeating their rivals. Into this fascinating setting has landed a strange chunk of science fiction -- an alien pod with mysterious powers of healing and restoration. Naturally, this causes all kinds of chaos, and it turns out that the Doctor and Cwej aren't the only time travelers visiting this location.
The alien pod is, of course, mostly a big McGuffin, designed to give the local warlords something to scheme and stage huge battles over. Frankly, I preferred the pod when we weren't getting its scientific explanations and it was merely an excuse to make the plot move in a given direction. In fact, my favorite parts of the novel were the ones devoid of any science fiction elements at all (in other words, the sword-fights and archery were more interesting than the laser blasts), leading me to believe that I would have enjoyed the book even more if it had been done as a pure historical. It would certainly have knocked the spots off of SANCTUARY, the previous Doctor Who story with no sci-fi elements. For instance, take the opening sections of the book concerning the three samurai (two warriors, one of whom brings his son along to learn the ropes) on a mission, who stylishly go about their business being all cool and samurai-y. If the whole novel had been done in that manner, I would have absolutely adored it.
Not that I disliked the rest of the book. On the contrary, there's a lot to enjoy here. The Seventh Doctor's life is drawing to a close, his regeneration having aired on TV screens the previous year and his book series concluding in a matter of months. He can feel Paul McGann's wig approaching, and he worries about the unfinished business in his current life. Tying up some loose ends from this incarnation is handled quite well here. We see the Doctor's troubles reflected in his own meditations and in his relationships with the book's secondary characters.
Chris Cwej is also given a lot to fret over, finally coming to terms with the events of the previous few books. I wasn't reading these last few NAs in order the last time around; I ended up not having a complete collection, and read the ones I did have in a fairly random order. Now that I have finally read them all in the order they were meant to be experienced, I'm quite impressed with what they did with Chris during the end of the series.
The comic relief in this book comes in the form of the alien Kapteynians who are described as being giant space chickens. I found this funnier than I did the last time I read the novel, mostly because this time I was reading it while the Subservient Chicken was entering minute seven of its fifteen minutes of fame. I dare you to take one look at subservientchicken.com and tell me that the guy in the cheap chicken costume isn't exactly what the BBC would have produced had this been a television adventure.
As with many of Orman's novels, the secondary characters are delightfully memorable. Penelope, the time-traveling Victorian woman, comes across as a solid creation, interesting, but not overpowering. I think the temptation might have been to give her more of the spotlight, but she works a lot better as a one-woman Greek chorus, occasionally chiming in on the perils and ethics of time travel. The Zen monks are fun -- grinning a lot and saying counter-intuitive things, just as we expect them to. Kame, the ronin, is also a major source of entertainment. I wish he could have been brought along at the end of this adventure.
The only character who didn't quite work for me was Joel, and that's mostly because he was also in Orman's RETURN OF THE LIVING DAD. Not that there was anything wrong with him there. The problem I had was that he's supposed to be significant older in this book than he was then, yet I had to continually remind myself that he is no longer a kid. I could stomach the teenage angst'n'fanboy stuff when he actually was a teenager; it made sense in that context. But it seemed odd to see the exact same stuff coming out of a person who is now supposed to be older than Chris (thirteen years have passed from Joel's subjective point of view since RETURN, while Chris has only seen a couple of years go by). Maybe there was something about this character that I just didn't get.
I've seen a few posts in various on-line forums where the author claims that "very little about ROOM was deliberate". I certainly couldn't tell that from reading it. In fact, it came across to me as the opposite; it felt very deliberate and focused. The themes of isolation, punishment (self-inflicted as well as from outside sources) and redemption permeate throughout the whole book, and are revisited in a variety of ways. I enjoyed this book the first time I read it. I appreciated it much more this second time. And I fully expect that the third time I read it, my enjoyment will increase again.