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Steve White "Steve" (Peterborough, UK)

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Doctor Who: Matrix
Doctor Who: Matrix
by Robert Perry
Edition: Mass Market Paperback

4.0 out of 5 stars Matrix, 2 Oct. 2013
Matrix is a 7th Doctor, Past Doctor adventure and the second in Mike Tucker and Robert Perry's self-styled series 27.

The story of Matrix is fairly complex, it fits in with the story type of series 26, in that there is a story there deep down, but it's confusing as anything and doesn't make a whole lot of sense at first glance. As this was meant to be set in the fictional series 27 it's a little disappointing as the first story, Illegal Alien, was just a joyous romp with a fairly straightforward plotline. The novel starts with the villain doing a ritual to make a golem and then attacking the Doctor with it when he is at his weakest before the TARDIS is hi-jacked. Meanwhile Ace seems to be falling under the influence of the Cheetah planet (from Survival) and the villain is shown to be committing a murder in Victorian times. The pieces are not obviously linked, and linking them seems a little bit convoluted and screams that the authors had so many ideas they just tried to shoe-horn as many into one novel as possible.

The novel then shifts to the Victorian era of the Ripper murders, with the TARDIS crew attempting to stop the 6th murder which should never have happened. I'm a sucker for a good old Victorian setting and Tucker/Perry have done themselves proud in capturing the era on the page. The bulk of the novel is set here and the people and the era really do come alive on the page. The trouble is all this good work is then undone by the final pages of the book which becomes all out Gallifreyan fanwink. I don't mind semi-historical novels and I don't mind novels delving into the fictional Time Lord history, but here they clash badly.

There is no denying that Tucker and Perry can write for the 7th Doctor, they do it very well indeed as Illegal Alien proved. Matrix however features a sombre 7th Doctor who spends the best part of the novel depressed, scared and/or not himself. Whilst it adds depth to the character, it's not really the sort of Doctor I like to read about and I felt the absence of a "Doctor" character was missed. Ace is done fairly well though, and is thrust into not very nice situations which are interesting and suit her well.

Matrix is a pretty gloomy and grim novel which makes the smoggy London of Victorian times the perfect setting. It has strong ideas and really pushes forward the backstory of the Matrix and also the idea of a dark Doctor but never quite reaches what it sets out to do by simply throwing far too many ideas at you all at once. It makes for a dark and atmospheric novel, thanks in part to the wonderful Victorian setting, but it's plot takes a lot to follow and asks you to believe some pretty outrageous and contrived plot devices which seriously detracts from what otherwise could have been a great novel.


Doctor Who: Last Man Running
Doctor Who: Last Man Running
by Chris Boucher
Edition: Mass Market Paperback

3.0 out of 5 stars Last Man Running, 20 Sept. 2013
Last Man Running is the second 4th Doctor novel in the Past Doctor Adventure range written by Chris Boucher.

The main plot of Last Man Running is The Doctor and Leela arriving on a planet at the same time as a group of investigators who are searching for an escaped man (a runner). They soon find the planet has extremely odd vegetation and is almost totally devoid of wildlife and it becomes apparent they are part of a weapons testing facility and unwitting test subject of the runners experiments.

Boucher has created his own terminology for the group of investigators which is thoroughly offputting, The odd usage is bearable but they are also mentioned far too commonly and you wonder if you've missed a bit explaining just what they are. It then becomes clear that that is how Boucher wants it to be as the Doctor asks himself the same questions. A pointless sub-plot in my eyes.

The first half of Last Man Running is more about survival in the wild whilst the latter half switches to a more science fiction style. The two styles don't really work together which lets the book down, the actual heart of the story isn't a bad concept, it just isn't done particularly well and you do find your mind wandering ever so slightly in the lull between the more action packed scenes. For such a short novel the ending took a long time to get over and done with, and when it ended I wasn't entirely sure what had actually happened. It was fairly confusing, and the fate of the empire is still left unresolved.

The Doctor is a fairly mediocre 4th, only really discernible by his long coat, hat and scarf. I enjoyed the fact that the scarf is used early on as a plot device but other than that his characterization is lacking to say the least. Companion wise we have the annoying Leela, so annoying in fact that even the Doctor wants to be shot of her in the very first chapter. That said the story of the book does suit her quite well as a hunter and if you like Leela, then you'll probably approve of her characterization here.

The investigators are fairly dull, the usual mix of older people, younger people, people who want power, people who want to retire and a couple who just want to get it on. They serve the purpose of the story fairly well but Boucher's characterization just isn't that great and you don't feel for any of them. Even the plot twists, which I didn't see coming felt very lackluster as I quite simply didn't care.

Last Man Running is an average PDA which would probably have been better served as a TV serial than a novel. There is nothing much to love, but likewise nothing much to hate either. A forgettable, middle of the road adventure.


Doctor Who: Dreams of Empire: 50th Anniversary Edition
Doctor Who: Dreams of Empire: 50th Anniversary Edition
by Justin Richards
Edition: Paperback
Price: £7.99

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Dreams of Empire, 12 Sept. 2013
Dreams of Empire is a Past Doctor Adventure featuring the 2nd Doctor and written by Justin Richards. This novel was chosen to best represent the 2nd Doctor in the 50th Anniversary Collection so expectations are high before you start out and luckily they live up to it.

The story isn't a standard 2nd Doctor romp featuring the battling of an alien race of the week, but rather a political thriller. The novel starts by introducing us to 3 friends who are Consul's of a Republic and in the midst of a grasp for total power by one of them (Kesar). The others vote against him throwing the Republic into civil war. It then moves forward to a castle in space, where the TARDIS crew land and meet with Trayx, one of the Consul's opposed to Kesar and discover the castle is a prison for Kesar. The trouble is there's been a murder and Trayx thinks Kesar will be next. Soon a ship approaches, bringing with it robot soldiers, hell bent on destroying Kesar and whomever gets it their way and from this point on the novel is a distinctly "base under siege" type story you expect from a novel set in series 5.

Dreams of Empire really does hit the spot story wise and Justin Richards is to be praised for essentially writing a Doctor Who thriller and pushing the boundaries of established Doctor Who. There are few boring bits, with the pace being just right to keep you wanting to read on. The twist and turns which come with this sort of fiction are aplenty, and I didn't see the final twist coming despite it being glaringly obvious. A true talent.

The Doctor is done very well indeed, probably the best version of the 2nd of the range so far and this isn't an easy Doctor to write for so Richards gets points for this. There are wonderful bits with him acting the clown involving sandwiches and walking into broom cupboards, which just screams Troughton and made me chuckle. Companion wise we have Jamie and Victoria, both faithfully recreated from the TV series. Jamie is a little bit brash for more liking given the time frame this story is set, he is much more reserved in The Roundheads which was set before this story, but it isn't a major thing. Victoria is just as she would be on screen, semi-useless and screaming a lot which is good in one way, but I did find her bits a little boring. Supporting cast wise it really is political thriller by numbers, but the stereotype characters are fleshed out to give them a decent enough backstory so that you care about them and know who is who. The initial chapter gives backstory to the Haddron Republic and this in itself makes you care more about the present events.

Dreams of Empire is a well written 2nd Doctor novel which bucks the trend of the "monster of the week" type stories usually associated with the era. As such it is a refreshing read, and it's clear to see why this was chosen to represent the 2nd Doctor in novel form for the 50th anniversary. Highly recommended to all.


Doctor Who: Zeta Major
Doctor Who: Zeta Major
by Simon Messingham
Edition: Paperback

2.0 out of 5 stars Zeta Major, 2 Sept. 2013
This review is from: Doctor Who: Zeta Major (Paperback)
Zeta Major is a Past Doctor Adventure by Simon Messingham featuring the 5th Doctor and is a sequel to the TV serial The Planet of Evil.

Story wise, Zeta Major suffers from many different characters and plot threads making it hard to keep up and leaves you feeling fairly unsatisfied, despite the main story actually being fairy interesting deep down. The prologue features a crew landing on Zeta Minor, a planet long abandoned due to the evils which lurk there, but required nonetheless as an energy source. The first chapter then flits between a secret agent being set free from a high security prison, his "rescuer" being blackmailed by a different group, the agent himself setting up a project of some sorts, and the Doctor having a series of hallucinations. Each bit has various characters and you're left fairly confused as to what is going on. Essentially the Morestrans are starting to use antimatter again, although this is covered up, and the Doctor has to put things right again.

Zeta Major is a fairly dull book, the story doesn't grip you as it should and I found my mind wandering and struggled to read much per session. Whilst the story is interesting the novel seems bloated and the actual story is interspersed with quotes from texts, and transcripts to do with the Church and the various groups in the book, which just makes a dull book, even duller.

The 5th Doctor isn't done that well. The hallucinations affecting him in the early part of the story make it difficult to relate to his TV persona. I think the main issue is that 5th Doctor just doesn't really work on paper as he is pretty dull when compared to the others. So not only does Zeta Major have a dull story, but it also has a dull Doctor. When Messingham does try to jazz him up a bit, he has him threatening someone with a gun, which is totally out of character. Companions Nyssa and Tegan are both are done well with both companions having a fair bit to do.

Zeta Major is a below average Past Doctor Adventure which fails to live up to the story it is a sequel too and struggles to live up to other titles in the Past Doctor Range. Whilst not the worst Doctor Who novel I've ever read, it still took a lot of perseverance to make it to the end. One for completionists only I'd say.


Doctor Who: The Janus Conjunction
Doctor Who: The Janus Conjunction
by Trevor Baxendale
Edition: Paperback

5.0 out of 5 stars The Janus Conjunction, 21 Aug. 2013
The Janus Conjunction is an Eighth Doctor novel by Trevor Baxendale and one of the best of the range so far.

The Doctor and Sam arrive on Janus Prime, a planet permanently dark due to a fixed eclipse. The only light is a blue glow of the planets radiation. Upon arrival they save a Mendan from soldiers and then promptly get split up with the Doctor heading to Menda and Sam getting captured on Prime. It turns out a colony from Earth came to settle on Menda but crash landed, destroying their armed escorts way home. Once settled on Menda they find a link to Prime, where the armed escorts, led by Gustav Zemler retreat to. Sadly they all contact radiation poisoning due to prolonged exposure to Prime, and cannot leave without their bodies turning to slime. As it is their bodies are literally melting away at a very slow rate. Realizing Sam is in danger, the Doctor helps the Mendans to understand the link's technology and heads back to rescue her.

The Eighth Doctor is still wildly variable from novel to novel. Baxendale sadly doesn't do him very well and he comes across as more Pertwee than McGann however I have a soft spot for Pertwee style stories so I can't say I was that disappointed. He doesn't do anything un-Doctor like so no issues really.

Sam is back to the whiny teenage version, despite Baxendale referencing her maturity since the events on Dreamstone Moon. She gets captured and all she can do, whilst in great pain and wounded, is to try to be smart and flash but it comes across as rude. She even gives a guard the middle finger. Real maturity there. She gets slightly better when she is dying but still is so obnoxious that I half wished she would just die. This Sam annoys me no end, I prefer bland generic companion Sam to mouthy Sam and am getting more and more excited for the arrival of Fitz in a few novels time.

What Baxendale does do well are the supporting cast, which whilst totally stereotypically work really well to drive the story. As previously mentioned there are 2 groups who all came to Menda together, a group of colonists and there armed escort. The colonists are all farmer/scientist types who are fairly boring, however there number is swelled by Lunder, one of the armed escort who had fallen out with his comrades and didn't take the ill-fated first trip to Prime. Lunder is a typical solider type who distrusts the Doctor, but he has good intentions, spurred on by his obvious love for Julya, one of the colonists. His gradual softening has been done to death in Doctor Who previously, but it still was satisfying to read.

The Janus Conjunction is a fairly generic Doctor Who novel but very hugley entertaining nonetheless. The Eighth Doctor and Sam could be the Third Doctor and Jo and this novel would fit well into the PDA range, which for an EDA probably wasn't something the author was going for. That said it's an excellent story with very little to complain about, which keeps you wanting to read on. Perfect poolside reading and an ideal novel for fans and newcomers alike.


Doctor Who: The Scarlet Empress
Doctor Who: The Scarlet Empress
by Paul Magrs
Edition: Mass Market Paperback

4.0 out of 5 stars The Scarlet Empress, 13 Aug. 2013
The Scarlet Empress is an 8th Doctor adventure featuring Iris Wildthyme by Paul Magrs. It is more a fantasy/adventure novel than it is science fiction which sets it apart from the previous novels in the range.

The Doctor and Sam arrive on Hyspero to discover the Doctor's old associate Iris Wildthyme embroiled in quest to reform a band of four mutants for the Scarlet Empress. Iris' motives are questionable, and she isn't giving much away to the Doctor. As the story progresses the band get back together and join forces to thwart the Scarlet Empress. It's a good premise, but it's the little side-stories which really let the novel down as they draw from fantasy rather than science fiction. It seems Magrs has tried to shoehorn in as many fantasy ideas as possible and it comes across a little fragmented at times.

I also have a couple of quibbles with Magrs writing style namely his use of long words and his insertion of "videotape" footage from the future. Whilst I don't like my novels to be dumbed down it's annoying when you have to stop mid-sentence to look a word up in a dictionary. The videotape footage just serves to confuse, and stops the flow of what is otherwise an entertaining passage.

Magrs does the 8th Doctor brilliantly, harking back to his portrayal in Vampire Science, and Sam is also a joy to read now she's matured. Both characters really shine with their interactions with Iris, Sam in particular taking to the "cool mum" image Iris has.

Iris Wildthyme is one of Paul Magrs original characters and I won't lie, she's pretty cool and it's nice to see an author change our established views of the Doctors past, and try to push the series forward. A Time Lady who has met the Doctor before on numerous occasions she adds dimensions to the Doctor which we wouldn't see without her. Also the similarities between her character and River Song from Nu-Who are pretty clear, including the use of the word "sweetie" Magrs might want a quiet word with Moffat. Anyway Iris is a joy to read, her illness and obvious pre-regeneration gives Magrs a chance to get into the minds of a dying Time Lord, something never really touched upon on TV (until Tennant/Smith of course). The other characters are all a bit flat, mainly due to the author concentrating more on the fantasy ideas than characterization.

Paul Magrs took some risks in writing The Scarlett Empress and for the most part they paid off. The fantasy setting is a nice change although it feels a little mish-mashed at times but the inclusion of Iris Wildthyme made the novel by adding to the dynamic of the TARDIS crew. A little bit too long, and a little bit too sesquipedalian (using long words for the sake of it) for me, but enjoyable nonetheless. Only really one for hardcore Doctor Who fans though.


Doctor Who: Vanderdeken's Children
Doctor Who: Vanderdeken's Children
by Christopher Bulis
Edition: Mass Market Paperback

4.0 out of 5 stars Vanderdeken's Children, 29 July 2013
1998 wasn't a good year for the EDA's according to general fan consensus. It's pretty easy to see why when 5 of the 7 novels preceding Vanderdeken's Children were either easily forgettable or severely lacking. With Vanderdeken's Children though, Christopher Bulis has managed to stem the flow and written a novel is one of the better ones of the era.

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.


Doctor Who: The Placebo Effect
Doctor Who: The Placebo Effect
by Gary Russell
Edition: Mass Market Paperback

3.0 out of 5 stars Placebo Effect, 19 July 2013
So Sam is back with the Doctor and they set off to have more thrilling adventures, or not as the case may be. Kicking off year 2 of the EDA's is Gary Russell's latest offering, Placebo Effect. The novel takes place in the year 3999 at the Intergalactic Olympic Games and features a myriad of different plot threads and characters. You've got the Wirrrn taking over people, Foamasi infiltrating companies, a cult taking offense to mixed species marriages, and a business acting dodgy. It's all fairly interesting but there is just so much going on it really is hard to keep track.

The trouble is that although there is all these things going on, nothing really happens after the first few pages until the end of the novel. The rest of Placebo Effect is filled with Sam or the Doctor talking to various other people whilst investigating missing agents and dead Foamasi. It's not boring, but neither is it that exciting and the story will be forgotten within a year.

The final showdown gets a little better, but for me the ending wasn't at all satisfying and left me wondering the fate of many of the characters.

Gary Russell usually sticks to Past Doctor Adventures and it's easy to see why, he really can't write for the 8th Doctor. Early on the Doctor is captured, and to escape uses violence, despite not actually being threatened by anything other than capture, which is more a trait of the 3rd or 6th. The author also has him knowing far more than he possible can with an air of mystique about him which is reminiscent of the 7th. In fact the only way you can tell it's the 8th is because Gary Russell keeps telling you he is tall and slim, with long flowing hair.

Mr Russell does do better with Sam though, although he still can't resist having her throw her lot in with a do-good group. She starts off the Sam of old but soon matures and realizes her old self was irritating and decides to make her own decisions.

Gary Russell is one of those authors who writes a decent enough story, but just irritates you throughout. He is guilty of fanwankery in the extreme, and whilst it's nice to have references to the past, they seem shoe-horned in for little to no reason. Whilst forgivable in the PDA's, the EDA's should be pushing the story forward, not reminiscing about era's past.

In short Placebo Effect has all the making of a pretty good Doctor Who novel. Sadly it's ruined by too many characters, bad characterizations and far too much fan wankery. If you can get past that, then it isn't a bad book, but it's all a bit chaotic for no real reason.


Virtual XI
Virtual XI
Price: £5.99

4.0 out of 5 stars Give Blaze a chance, 5 July 2013
This review is from: Virtual XI (Audio CD)
I know it's an unpopular album amongst fans, and trust me I am a die hard Iron Maiden fan, but I really like this album. Before you listen to it, you have to forget everything that has gone before it, and treat it as a debut album of a new band. Blaze was never ever going to be able to fill Bruce's shoes, but that doesn't make him a bad singer, just different.

The opening song, Futureal is one of my all time favourite Iron Maiden songs. Short, metal and catchy. The Angel and the Gambler goes on a bit too long, but after repeated listens it grows on you. Lightning Strikes Twice, The Clansman, and When Two Worlds Collide are all great songs. The final three are forgettable but after repeated listens do grow on you.

In short, don't try to compare this album to anything Iron Maiden did with Bruce. Listen with an open mind, and you'll find it's not actually that bad.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Oct 10, 2014 10:25 PM BST


Doctor Who: Mission Impractical
Doctor Who: Mission Impractical
by David McIntee
Edition: Paperback

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Mission: Impractical, 4 July 2013
Mission: Impractical is David McIntee's second offering in the BBC Books Past Doctor range. His first, Face of the Enemy, got widespread acclaim and is probably my favorite novel of the range so far, so the bar was set pretty high for this novel. Straight away McIntee makes it clear this is not a serious novel by putting a statement of intent before the prologue. Personally I prefer the novels which don't take themselves too seriously and are just pure fun, so I was looking forward to starting this book.

The main plot device of the novel is an artifact, stolen from the Veltrochini's by a team of professional criminals. It turns out the artifact was stolen for a shady Government and the Veltrochini now want it back, and are threatening war. Time has moved on since the theft though, and the current Government are unaware of the artifact. Therefore a dodgy agent called Mandell hires Sabalom Glitz to steal the artifact from the Government's high security facility and return it to the Veltrochinis. Meanwhile a bounty is put on the Doctor's head and investigating the attempted assassination leads him to Mandell who forces him to help Glitz. It's all very spy fiction, with good guys and bad guys, and plot twists abound. Very entertaining.

The only slight disappointment is that Mission: Impractical claims to be a light read where you leave your brain at the door, but features massive amounts of technobabble. The facility where the artifact is held is phased 5 minutes in the past, with the vault itself phased a day different to that. Once you get your head around that, McIntee just flows with yet more time travel stuff, which requires more concentration than it really should.

The Doctor in question is the often overlooked 6th. I mentioned in my review of Business Unusual that I feel the 6th Doctor gets a raw deal and that authors usually portray him far better than the script writers did. McIntee does a good job in bringing out the best of the 6th Doctor, arrogant and brash but with an obvious good heart. This is the 6th Doctor I wish got shown on TV.

Companion wise we have Frobisher, a character who only exists in spin off media. For those not in the know Frobisher is a Whifferdill, a race which can change their shape at will. Frobisher however likes the form of a penguin. He is also a private detective who joined the Doctor for a few adventures. The character of Frobisher and the Doctor work well together, and he is infinitely more interesting to read about than Mel who is usually the stock choice for companion to the "nicer" 6th Doctor. I'd like to read more novels with Frobisher as the companion.

Mission Impractical also sees the return of fan favorite rogue, Sabalom Glitz and his sidekick Dibber. I adore the character of Glitz, and do wish we had a 6th Doctor season with him as a regular. Both rogues are written well, exactly as you remember them from the TV. Dibber's fate is revealed but you really struggle to feel much for him, which is a shame. Glitz's crew are bog standard criminals, although McIntee does try to hint at romance between Chat and Glitz to spice things up a bit, but it doesn't really work, nor is it needed.

The other cast are not really noteworthy. Mandell is a Government agent who seems to be double crossing everyone, again McIntee tries to liven him up by adding a pregnant wife who is also a police woman, but again this doesn't work, and isn't really needed. The bounty hunters after the Doctor show early promise, and there bits are entertaining, but neither really shine. Likewise the Veltrochini are an interesting race, comparable to the Draconians, but they only really serve as a threat to the Government.

Mission: Impractical is a jolly jaunt through a 6th Doctor TV story with the added bonus of Frobisher. It sometimes tries too hard to be something it's not, but overall McIntee has grafted an entertaining story which is well worth the read. It isn't going to challenge you, but much like the previous book, Catastrophea, it's perfect holiday reading, and who can complain about that.


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