A short Metro ride from the centre of the city brought him to a station called Schuman, from which Fitz emerged eating a chocolate-coated waffle, to find himself at a roundabout. Apparently roundabouts were quite rare in Belgium and from what Fitz had seen of the local driving habits he could see why – the average Belgian apparently happier to drive in a straight line, no matter who or what might be in their way, rather than have the inconvenience of having to steer in a circle. Consulting the curious local version of an A-to-Z – a thick handbook whose map pages were so small that you had hardly begun to walk before you needed to turn the page – Fitz took a side street away from the EC offices, past a clutch of Indian restaurants (must be here for the Brits, he thought as he passed) and behind the giant and futuristic Berlaymont building.Sorry for the lengthy quote, but when a character in a Doctor Who novel literally walks past the building that my office is in (not the Berlaymont, but the opposite side of Rue Stevin, just along from the Indian restaurant) I find it worthy of note. (Though the novel is set in 2000 or thereabouts, and I moved in only in 2008.)
According to his guide book the Berlaymont building had been constructed in the 1970s to house the European Commission but in the 1990s it had been found to be full of dangerous asbestos and had been evacuated. Since then it had been wrapped in plastic, waiting for the asbestos to be safely removed. So far it had been closed for getting on for ten years and most people at the Commission considered it a long-running joke that it would be reopening ‘soon’.
Fitz almost missed the street he was looking for. The street sign was in Flemish – Stevinstraat – and he had to look twice to see the French translation, Rue Stevin.
I quite liked this Eighth Doctor novel when I first read it in late 2008, and I liked it more this time round. In particular, Fitz's return after a five-book gap is very welcome, making the reader (or at least this reader) feel that we are getting back to a format we recognise; and new companion Anji has a far better start than the unfortunate Sam or the incomprehensible Compassion. I also appreciated the amnesiac Doctor's vague memories of his previous life - I find the Eighth Doctor's repeated vulnerability to amnesia a bit tedious, but this is now the sixth successive amnesiac!Doctor novel so the irritation is wearing off. The notion of orbital launching sites either on the Belgian coast or in Southern England, with or without alien technology, is a bit fanciful but I'll forgive it. A novel that makes a lot more sense as part of the sequence but is probably decent enough on its own.