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on 9 October 2011
There have been literally hundreds of DOCTOR WHO novels, but with the new millennium incarnation of the TV series, BBC Books (inevitably) renovated its line to match. The publishing "reboot" features three kinds of book: the main line of compact hardcovers sans dust jacket, technically marketed at YA readers, but written at a general audience level; a number of series *specifically* for younger readers, including annuals, Quick Reads and the 2in1 volumes of novellas; and what I guess might be called the "adult" line: mainstream hardcovers presumably written at a higher literary level.

The first book in that series, by science fantasy Master Michael Moorcock, THE COMING OF THE TERRAPHILES was, despite Moorcock's longtime and well documented affection for the show, a vastly disappointing affair, to put it mildly; rather than step into the DOCTOR WHO universe and continuity, he seemed to be appropriating the characters and some of the concepts to fit within his peculiar and legendary multi-verse. They bore little but surface resemblance to the authentic characters and more heartbreaking still, the book itself was a rambling, talky, discursive bit of twee high comedy, as if the setting were a drawing room in space.

But this second book by Dan Abnett, THE SILENT STARS GO BY, seems an aggressive attempt to reclaim the "adult" line's integrity. Abnett, though certainly a major player, does not represent the kind of high profile by-line Moorcock does, but clearly, this time, the editors were more concerned about getting it right than having a brand name on the package.

Abnett's book is really no more "adult" than the primary line of books, save for the fact that it's somewhat longer. Mostly, it's just a ripping good WHO yarn, featuring Matt Smith's incarnation of the Doctor, plus married companions Amelia Pond and Rory Williams. He has the characters, their voices, their internalization, exactly right; his prose is facile (he likes a good, showy effect) but also witty, and also -- and I don't mean this to diminish its sophistication -- easy to read. The flow appears effortless.

This is not to say it breaks any new ground -- as I say, this book is *not* a literary experiment, it's DOCTOR WHO served straight up, with suspense, cool monsters and expertly timed comedy. And it spins variations on a few familiar science fiction tropes (among them the backwoods colony of settlers descended from space travelers, who view artifacts of their ancestors' technology in a reinterpretive, religious context.) But I think that's exactly what was called for to save the line of books.

Flaws? Sometimes THE SILENT STARS GO BY is (despite its highly poetic title) cleverly quippy to a fault, and Abnett works the wisecracks a bit too hard. (When the original play version of THE ODD COUPLE was in out of town tryouts, a colleague asked director Mike Nichols how it was going. "Pretty good," said Nichols. "We're taking out the jokes." Meaning, of course, they were getting rid of distracting excess, that moved off the point of character and story. Here and there Abnett could do with similar restraint.) But all in all, that's a minor quibble.

The book is a brisk, fun read, it truly does come off as a credible DOCTOR WHO episode (and in comparison to the weak 6th season entries, a superior one at that) ... and it can (and will) be enjoyed by young readers as well as adults. Geronimo ...
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on 17 August 2016
A nice short-ish story featuring the 11 th doctor. I like to set up and the character and mannerism of the 11th doctor are definitely present.

I'm a fan of Dan Abnett already and he adapts himself well to the whovian universe.
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VINE VOICEon 9 December 2011
Format: Audio CD|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
A book that truly feels like it could be the novelisation of a TV episode. The key word for this book is danger, there are elements of it everywhere in the prose be it the threat of the human race dieing out or from the villains' in the chase sequences of the book. I wouldn't quite say its dark but its definitely not of the "jolly" nature of post comeback Who books.

Featuring The Doctor, Amy and Rory the regulars are captured near perfectly, I especially enjoy Rory's self depreciation. Looking for Christmas they land on a future colony planet where things aren't going to well for the human race. The planets weather pattern is mysteriously becoming more winter like and the Ice Warriors are afoot. I especially enjoyed the fact that the Ice Warriors were allowed to be monsters for a large part of the book. Eventually they get into chatty mode but its enjoyable to see a monster be a monster.

Fully recommended and I give it five stars, very much an all action book with my favourite parts being the aforementioned chases. Although don't be fooled as its also got a good little plot with the odd twist and surprise late in play.
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A Doctor Who novel. Telling an all new story for the Doctor and friends that hasn't appeared before in any other medium.

It features the Eleventh Doctor, Amy and Rory. It's set at a point somewhere early in their second season.

It runs for two hundred and seventy nine pages. It's divided into a prologue plus eighteen chapters.

There's also a short introduction from the writer which is worth a read.

Although this was originally published separately from the main range of these - which are suitable for all ages - as a hardback edition, which tend to be geared more towards slightly older readers, this one is pretty much suitable for all ages as well.

Set on the colony world of Hereafter, the colonists are people known as Morphans. Life is not going as well as it has been for them, as the weather seems to be getting worse all the time. Then a girl disappears. Strange creatures are seen in the woods.

Three strangers then arrive. One of them claims to be a Doctor. They might just be what the planet needs, in order to find the secrets that await...

This is written by a writer who does a lot of franchise fiction. And they are clearly a master of that craft. You can't write anything too sophisticated, or something that changes tv continuity. But you have to write a story that feels like an episode of the show, and also uses the medium of the printed page and the reader's imagination to conjure up visuals in the mind's eye that a tv budget possibly couldn't manage.

This more than succeeds in doing that. Getting the three main characters exactly right, with dialogue you can imagine the tv actors saying.

It's also good science fiction. The world is a good setting and the Morphans come over as people who have lived in such a setting for a long time, with language traits that show such signs.

There is an old monster involved. It handles them really well, keeping them a vague presence at the start. With some great visual descriptions of how those who don't know them react to them. Plus there's some really good plotting, that has clearly been worked out right from the start. Allowing for some excellent surprises and plot twists in the final quarter.

This is not great literature. But it's really good Doctor Who novel writing. So it's well worth a read if that's what you're looking for.
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VINE VOICEon 17 December 2011
Format: Audio CD|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
'The Silent Stars Go By' is the second in a new series of annual 'event' novels, following last year's offering from Michael Moorcock, 'The Coming of the Terraphiles'. That novel seemed to get a very mixed reaction from fans, so this time BBC Books appear to have decided to play it safe. Michael Moorcock offered a very distinctive and different take on Doctor Who, filtering the concept through his own style and 'Multiverse' mythos, and offering something new in the process. Dan Abnett on the other hand is primarilly a professional tie-in writer, and the result is exactly what you'd suspect: a very slick, professional read, with the regulars to the fore and entirely in keeping with their television counterparts. The downside is it's also completely anonymous in style. This is a good solid Doctor Who adventure, but it offers nothing new, and it could have been written by anybody, so it's designation as some kind of 'event' book seems to rest on both the return of the Ice Warriors, and a few vague story nods towards Christmas. Still, the story is the main thing, and whilst the initial chapters seem to have been distilled from some data bank of traditional Who cliches (prologue where a supporting character is attacked by something nasty in the woods; Doctor and companions land and are immediately suspected of wrongdoing by the locals and locked up; civilisation where historical truth has been corrupted over the years), Abnett does manage to fit in a couple of enjoyable twists along the way, and there is plenty of action for all three of the regular cast.

Reader Michael Maloney has a curiously old-fashioned and somewhat fruity delivery, so his Doctor occasionally feels more like a throwback to the slightly posher early Doctors, but he manages to invest his character with a range of distintive voices without going overboard on silly accents. It should be noted that whilst Amazon lists the reading as taking place over 8 CDs, it's actually only 6, as 'The Silent Stars' go by is much shorter and tighter novel than 'The Coming of the Terraphiles'. For an audiobook however, that's not necessarily a bad thing.

Again - a good, 'solid' Doctor Who adventure - but sadly lacking in originality and authorial voice. Good, but not great. 3.5/5
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Format: Audio CD|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
The classic baddies are back, in the shape of the Ice Warriors. The story written by Dan Abnett and the audio CD is narrated by Michael Maloney. This is my first listening from the collaboration between these two people and they do not disappoint. The story is set on a frozen inhospitable world where the people try to survive against the odds, where the food harvest is critical to their survival. They hope that one day they can change the world to one that more resembles mother Earth.

However, the crops begin to fail and the corresponding live stock are dying what was a harsh existence is even worse.

The action begins with some pace and there are moments of humour seeded here and there in the narrative. What is great about this audio CD, for those us who remember the Ice Warriors of old, on TV, is the way your imagination is engaged, and the fear you felt as child while not to the same degree now, but none the less does give slight goose bumps. The story is littered with character and framed well in what we know and would expect from a good Dr Who story. My only slight critic is that at 6 hours long the pacing and narration seem to dull a bit, as another reviewer has mentioned and I quote `part three seems padded out'. That said, the there is depth and detail to this tale, and unlike our all too short TV format Dr Who episodes the time taken to expand explain and back drop set up are what make some of these audio CDs. To best sum up the quality of this Who adventure. A quote from Homer, Homer Simpson that is, Ice Warriors Mmmmm, as he salivates.
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on 20 November 2011
I must admit that what attracted me to this book was The Ice Warriors on the cover. I just love the tardis in the snow flanked by Ice Warriors with broadswords! That said I found this book to be an engaging read, well written with a healthy respect for the show, but (more importantly) NOT dogged with super-continuity/history.
As a long time enthusiast I loved the 'old' series of BBC Dr. Who books from the 1990s which featured the 8th Doctor as well as all the past doctors which were aimed at a more adult readership which were unceremoniously dropped when the new show came out - it was like a slap in the face to all the people who had helped keep the show alive in the hiatus. Well if this book is anything to go by then that may have begun to be redressed.
Although Amy & Rory have their parts to play in this book the doctor comes to the fore and has a nice exchange with the Ice Warriors, where some of their history is explored and the Doctor's faux-pas in getting his time eras wrong certainly brought a smile to my face.
Although I find the characters of Amy & Rory on TV quite irritating they are (thankfully) underplayed in this book and therefore for me, more believable. I think therefore this book should appeal to new and long-time enthusiasts alike as a wonderful consolidation of old & new.
I like also that the cover has a timeless quality about it by not having images of the current doctor & companions which also reflects the latter policy of the books in the '90s, to allow the book to retain it's appeal once the actors decide to move on... indeed it appears that in the TV Xmas special Matt Smith will be going solo - Hurrah! It's been sometime coming but it appears Matt Smith has become a 'proper' Doctor! More excellent books like this one can only serve to underline this. Now, can we have an occasional past Doctor book please?
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on 29 December 2014
Read at Christmas. The weather and titles will mean so much more.
Most of these novels are a bit run-of-the-mill but this one has a second level of clever wordplay which I found entertaining throughout. Part of this is the title and the chapter titles - all are from Christmas carols but still fit the creepy plot and give the story a bit of added gravitas with their old-world phrasing. The main part of the cleverness however is the twisting of names and phrases into the reality of a many-generation colonists life. There are words like 'Guide' that have become biblical in usage (thank Guide for that) and others of locations where standard classification names are shortened or misheard into normal sounding names (Beside, Would Be, Autumn mills) where the real names, when revealed, act as clues. It made you think while reading and made the revealing more relevant and entertaining.
The Plot:
Basically, a human colony is terraforming a world and has run into difficulties which are caused and cause further problems, mainly centred around creatures from the woods. The people are semi-ignorant and rural in nature having put into legend much of their original instructions. The Doctor's party gets split and follow different strands of the story. The story rolls about a bit but the action sequences and locations are original and have several unexpected twists in them. The characters - even brash, loud Amy - are likeable, the monsters all have their own reasons and ethics and the ending isn't neat but hopeful. It was also nice to see a very old enemy resurrected.
A clever, original, thoughtful story with good action, characters and plot. It even made me look up the authors back catalogue to read more. I hope the 100th anniversary will be as good!
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VINE VOICEon 3 December 2011
Format: Audio CD|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
The concept of a winter-world is an oldie in sci-fi terms, but it's a goodie. And it's to this setting we turn for Dan Abnett's new Doctor Who romp - featuring old adversaries the Ice Warriors!
When it comes to action, there's no better writer than Dan Abnett and paired with the inimitable delivery of Michael Maloney, The Silent Stars Go By does well to conjure up the scenes of a treacherously cold lost world that has forgotten its original heritage.

This might be officially touted as an 11th Doctor adventure, but Maloney clearly had Tom Baker in mind when narrating the Doctor's lines, and it actually works a treat - the likeness is spot on, plays in some wonderfully humorous lines and is at its best in the brilliant confrontation with the Ice Lord in Part 5. Full of menace and rich in the history of the show - it's a classic Doctor/baddie confrontation and written with perfect suspense.

That said, for all that this adventure has its high octane moments, it's not without its lulls too. At six hours long, parts of the tale can feel rather wordy and there's a lot of exploratory stuff mid-way; part three in particular feels rather padded out. Equally though, the extended running time gives the story room to build a proper sense of setting, giving it a richness of texture you rarely get in the TV episodes.

Amy and Rory feel rather periphery to the action, but this is all the more to allow the Doctor more time to be brilliant himself - the effect is of giving The Silent Stars Go By the flavour of a classic series adventure, or indeed classic sci-fi; those golden greats of the 60s pulp fiction era.

The descriptions of the ice warriors themselves are brilliant - they're given genuine menace and gravity; their monstrous, hulking size really coming across. Likewise, the other enemies of the piece - the trans-humans - are fantastically realised; horrible Necron-esque creations of fused flesh and metal. On the other end of the scale, there's the large supporting cast of west-country-accented natives who serve a rather good job of filling in the mystique of the post-Earth world.
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Format: Audio CD|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
Dan Abnett has a good reputation in genre franchise circles, largely due to his continually solid entries in the Warhammer 40,000 canon. As such, it was interesting to see what he'd do with Doctor Who - another long term franchise with considerable backstory, but with fewer opportunities for mass-murder than Abnett's typical bailiwick.

With that out of the way, Abnett is a good writer, sometimes a great writer. His scene setting, especially in the initial chapters, is vivid and impressive. The vista of ice is articulated very well - the listener can practically taste the snow, and feel the freezing winds. His dialogue is perhaps a bit quip-heavy, but it's short, sharp, punchy and memorable. The Moorcock outing that preceded this one ("The Coming of the Terraphiles"), was laced with languid and baroque verbiage, and the two styles contrast nicely. I tend to find Abnett's writing tighter, more compact, and think it makes for a faster paced, compelling read. It certainly does here.

This may, in part, be because Abnett has had an opportunity to see Matt Smith fill the role of The Doctor whilst writing - and the dialogue and style do seem to fit with the role as Smith plays it (though like another reviewer, I can see echoes of Tom Baker in some of the repartee). One complaint is that we hear rather less of Amy and Rory than one might expect - though this might also be something of a benefit, depending on how you feel about the companions.

Michael Maloney's reading is, as ever, solid. He manages to put range and character into each individual in the story. For once, it was fairly easy to tell which character was talking during dialogue heavy periods, with no need to rewind just to work out which character was saying what. A sterling job by this veteran narrator was to be expected, but is no less pleasant for that.

The audio version is presented in a brick-thick CD case, sufficient to carry all 6 CD's on a single spindle. As ever, I'd prefer each CD were on a separate leaf, as it makes them much easier to get at when listening on-the-move, but this is a relatively minor complaint. The cover is done up in the same art style as the Terraphiles outing, and the two will match nicely on your shelf. Unfortunately, the box is too thick to fit into a double-CD space on a standard CD rack, but that's a minor complain really.

Overall, this is a sharp, snappy, smart and above all entertaining return to form for the series, and one which is well worth listening to - though at around 8 hours of audio, it may take a while to do so. At any rate, highly recommended!
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