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The Good, the Bad and the Dunked,
This review is from: Doctor Who: Dark Horizons HC (Hardcover)
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
J. T. Colgan, better known as "chick-lit" author Jenny Colgan, was a surprising choice to pen a "Doctor Who" novel. However, given the fact that new "Who" is as much about Earthling emotions as it is about alien invasions, Colgan is an eminently suitable choice.
Much of her narrative dwells on human relationships, such as that between a widowed chieftain and his rebellious teenage son, and the one that develops between the feisty princess Freydis and the farm-boy-turned-Viking Henrik. However, balancing these interludes are the threat of a fiery extraterrestrial menace and some exciting TARDIS antics both on and beneath the waves. Colgan keeps the reader engaged by switching the action from a Viking longboat to a Scottish island to another Viking ship to a particularly exciting encounter on the seabed.
The tone of the novel is roughly the same as that of the modern television series. There are some gruesome deaths and references to sexuality, but nothing "adult" in an X-rated sort of way, so this book is suitable for all ages. It's not tremendously challenging or earth-shattering, but the author throws in some cool historical details that should interest the "Horrible Histories" generation and older readers alike, such as references to the Lewis Chessmen and the fact that the Vikings had no single, simple word for the colour blue.
The Eleventh Doctor is well characterised as an ancient yet youthful being, child-like and looking for fun, but burdened by responsibility. In a particularly beautiful moment (on page 221), Colgan puts her finger on the reason why the Time Lord lies: "The Doctor paused. He hated lying to children. But not as much as he hated scaring them."
The Doctor is travelling alone, without the Ponds, though there are echoes of them as Freydis and Henrik settle into their roles as stand-in companions. A fiery redhead, Freydis is, like Amy, an independent and commanding presence, the focus of all the boys' (the Doctor, Henrik, the Vikings) attention. Like Rory, Henrik is attracted to her, in awe of her and also a little afraid of her. In his own words, she is "a good but slightly terrifying woman" (page 284).
The author gets a little bogged down with the intricacies of TARDIS translation (for example, the Vikings and Britons require interpreters when talking to one another, even when the Doctor is nearby) and there is evidence that the final chapters did not receive quite as good a proofread as they might have done (for instance, little Luag's age is miraculously reversed from seven to six). The title doesn't seem very fitting, feeling more "Star Trek" than "Doctor Who" to me, and it doesn't really shout Vikings or fiery underwater menace. "Ragnarök" or "The Burning" might have been more suitable titles, though the latter has already been used on a "Who" novel.
These quibbles aside, this is a flaming good read.