Encouraged by kharin, I went through a probably unnecessarily convoluted process of transferring this Doctor Who novel from the BBC website to my Palm T|X, and read it in bed over the last week or so. This is a story of the Eighth Doctor, Bernice Summerfield and the Brigadier defending 1997 London from an invasion of Ice Warriors from Mars. There is lots to like here. I especially liked the setting - the casual name-dropping of real celebrities from 1997 (including Lalla Ward twice, once as herself and once as Romana), but in the world of Doctor Who (the Whoniverse?), where the UK has had a massive space programme since the early 1970s - a sort of sfnal Cool Britannia. It was a heck of a lot more convincing than, say Remembrance of the Daleks' attempt to reconstruct 1963. The basic plot got a little convoluted - sinister British technocrat is conspiring with the aliens to take power, with lots of little details that didn't always tie up well - but the characterisation and writing was great. Sure, the final escape from certain death through improvised parachute and airbags is a bit of a stretch of the imagination, but hey, we have a Time Lord battling invaders from a Mars with a breathable atmosphere - you expect gritty realism?
Despite my aggravation with getting hold of the text, the BBC has done a great thing in getting Lance Parkin to revisit the book and tell us the story of the story. This was in fact the very last of the New Adventures published by Virgin under the supervision of Rebecca Levene (who I knew at Cambridge), but also the first novel to feature the Eight Doctor. There is therefore a bit of an elegiac tone, and we cannot be really sure who will live and who will die. I saved reading Parkin's notes to each chapter until I had finished reading the book, and recommend that you do too - both read the book, and then read his notes. One story he tells is this:
On May 1st 1997, on the night of the General Election, Tim Collins, newly-elected Conservative MP for Westmorland and Lonsdale and Doctor Who fan (he’d had letters published in fanzine DWB) sat in his local town hall, oblivious to the activity around him, frantically reading The Dying Days, ‘because he wanted to have read all the New Adventures under a Tory administration’.Collins lost his seat earlier this year to another friend of mine from those days, Tim Farron.
Back in August I was on a panel at WorldCon with the title "Dr. [sic] Who Retrospective: The Best Years"; my nominations were Season Ten, Season Twelve and Season Fourteen. But I'm beginning to suspect that the Rebecca Levene Years may also be in contention.