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Customer reviews

3.5 out of 5 stars

Lawrence Miles comments in his introduction how he struggled to edit this novel down; well all I can say is 'thank goodness he did', as the whole thing is enough of a sprawling mess already.
Miles' prose style is perfunctory and uninspired; characters with names incorporating exclamation marks abound, and if this weren't irritating enough, the writer attempts to provide cheap laughs (or possibly some kind of knowing wink to fellow atheists) by incorporating a faux deity originally named 'God'.
Benny Summerfield may as well not be in the story for all the relevance she has here, and Miles seems oblivious to previous approaches to writing her character, making her a bog-standard heroine rather than the subversive 'anti-heroine' Paul Cornell designed her to be.
Unless you're a deluded completist like me, I'd let this one alone - even Dave Stone can do better, and that's saying something!
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on 2 October 2015
A good story, but very oddly laid out (the ebook version, the paperback is fine) with sentences/paragraphs stopping partway through , leaving a gap in the text, only then to carry straight on, further down the page. Why? God knows. This also occurred with the Doctor Who ebook 'The Taking of Planet Five', but this book beats that one as someone has replaced the word 'the' with the word 'die'; not every 'the' but it dose pop up enough to become distracting. Buy the paperback.
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on 1 February 2017
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on 28 December 2008
Lawrence Miles is a very clever writer, an author with more brains and originality than most so-called Doctor Who writers and he has frequently shown this in books such as 'Interference' and 'The Adventuress of Henrietta Street'. It's his big ideas that shine out best. He is a good writer, a reasonable storyteller, but it's his invention, wit and conceptual thinking that make his books such good and thought-provoking reading. Sometimes, however, other elements suffer because they can't match up with the strength of his ideas and the boldness of his concepts.

It's these strengths and weaknesses that are both apparent in 'Down', a Bernice Summerfield New Adventure that lacks The Doctor (for legal reasons) but still makes frequent (though usually obscure) references to the Whoniverse (great if you spot them but they're not essential to understanding the plot).

It's a real mixed bag of a novel, full of Douglas Adams/Robert Rankin style humour rather ill-advisedly mixed with dark reflections on the nature of personal narratives, archetypes and the universe. These two extremes work reasonably well in isolation but when they clash (and they frequently do) the whole thing just feels uncomfortable, perhaps reflecting the post-modern take on traditional old-school science fiction romps that Miles is clearly going for. Miles would later do something similar within the Doctor Who two-parter 'Interference' but in my opinion would do so much more successfully than here. In 'Down' this approach feels a little clumsy, like a first draft at the style but with too many incongruencies and brutal edges.

It certainly has its moments and contains more ideas within a few chapters than most Doctor Who spin-offs do in their entirety. But weighty ideas and gags at the expense of dodgy sci-fi films about hollow earths and dinosaurs do not make for great stories in themselves. There's a neat twist towards the end of the narrative but the conclusion of the book feels bolted on, as if Miles didn't know how to end things, and indeed I can see why because his own mixed-up tone would be likely to make any ending seem less than entirely satisfying.

And don't get me started on Bernice Summerfield, a character who I usually relish. Miles has gone on record as saying that he doesn't really like her at all (or rather what other writers do with her) and it rather shows in his own interpretation. She's no replacement for the Doctor and although she was never intended to be the absence of a Doctor-like character in this novel means that all too often the story just meanders from one event to another, waiting for someone to do something. If this is Miles' point then he makes it very well but it's nothing to feel smug about - a Doctor-less Doctor Who story just feels like one with a Doctor-shaped hole in it. As this is the first Bernice Summerfield solo adventure I've read I would hope that others make more satisfying use of her. I'd much rather that more was made of her strengths (try imagining Emma Thompson playing Indiana Jones but where the adventures take place in space) rather than emphasising her character flaws (that she likes to re-write elements of her past - a point that is hammered home here) and what she's not (she is not a Doctor-like character but shouldn't have to be).

So overall 'Down' is a disappointment but it still has enough funny jokes and numerous big and genuinely clever ideas to make it worth buying and reading. Just make sure you know what you're getting - neither Bernice Summerfield nor Lawrence Miles at their best.
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VINE VOICEon 23 August 2004
For a fair while Down seems to be a fluffy-adventure story, a satire of all those old adventure serials, with Benny journeying into the centre of the world to face Nazis, Dinosaurs, Cavemen and a Mad God-Like Computer. Had it continued in this vein alone it would have been an enjoyable adventure story, but nothing more - as it is Miles throws everything up n the air by throwing doubt on the main narrative as Benny is recounting it. How much of her story is true? Which bits is she making up, and why? Benny has long been shown to favour revising her diary entries with post-it note revisions - here Miles throws the character into such an extreme situation that she ends up trying to revise her own history. A fun adventure story that heads down into a very tense finale, with plenty of interesting concepts to chew over - if you've ever been unsure about any of these 'Doctor-less' New Adventures, this is the one to try. Essential.
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on 27 January 1999
A wonderfully bizarre book, which tells of the adventures of Bernice Summerfield from the Doctor Who New Adventure series, on a world where works of fiction are very real indeed. This is the only 'Benny' book I've read, but I'm now in no doubt that the character can continue to evolve without the aid of the Doctor. I won't spoil too much about this book for you except tell you that it feature a character from a planet of madmen (or as they like to be known, "The Truly Crazed") called !X, a pulp character from the twenty-fourth century called Mr Misnomer, a group of disillusioned Nazi U-boaters who are struggling to maintain their accents and a being called MEPHISTO (alas, not in a South Park crossover). Just get this book and find out how great it is. You'll thank me for it.
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