August 31st, 2010


August Books 36-37) Two Doctor Who books in which Thera explodes

35) The Slitheen Excursion, by Simon Guerrier
36) Fallen Gods, by Jonathan Blum and Kate Orman

As sometimes happens, my scheduling of Who books in my reading pile produced an odd synergy, with Simon Guerrier taking the Tenth Doctor back to a Slitheen incursion on ancient Athens, and Jonathan Blum and Kate Orman (in a Telos novella) taking the Eighth Doctor to the soon-to-be-destroyed citadel on the island of Thera. Both storied feature the cataclysmic Thera eruption at a distance (of space in The Slitheen Excursion and of time in Fallen Gods), both have a character called Deucalion, both have the Doctor in unlikely combat with bulls owing more to contemporary Spain than ancient Knossos, and both feature a strong female viewpoint character who is effectively the one-off companion for the story.

I thought that they were both also rather good, in very different ways. The Slitheen Excursion is in most ways a standard alien invasion New Series Adventures romp, but lifted partly by the total absence of fart jokes for the Slitheen and mainly by the strong presence of June Brown, a contemporary classics student who bumps into the Doctor while on holiday in Athens and helps him go back in time to defeat the nefarious plans of the green slimy shape-shifters. Perhaps it helped that I was listening to the audio as narrated by Debbie Chazen, who really gave June a credible voice, but I found myself hoping (despite knowing that it wouldn't happen) that the Doctor would take her with him at the end. There is an article to be written about last year's spate of companion-free Tenth Doctor adventures, on TV, audio and paper.

Fallen Gods is on quite a different level (and not really one for the kids). Here the Doctor links up with Alcestis, a lapsed priestess from a temple on Thera, and together they try to deal with the demons shapes like bulls threatening the population; this inevitably brings the Doctor to the court of the local king where he ends up discovering the awful secret behind the kingdom's success. Alcestis turns out to have a lot more behind her than first appears, and the ending is pretty gruesome if also loyal to the themes of Greek legend. I see that one reviewer perceived the book as a prequel to The Time Monster but really, Fallen Gods makes a lot more sense.

So, two Who books strongly recommended to the classicists, and indeed others.