Nicholas (nwhyte) wrote,

February Books 4-7): the first four Sarah Jane Smith novels

'I saw amazing things, out there in space. But there's strangeness to be found wherever you turn. Life on Earth can be an adventure too.

You just have to know where to look.'

4) Invasion of the Bane, by Terrance Dicks
5) Revenge of the Slitheen, by Rupert Laight
6) Eye of the Gorgon, by Phil Ford
7) Warriors of Kudlak, by Gary Russell

These are four short, cheerful books, full of positivity, sticking pretty closely to the first four broadcast Sarah Jane Adventures. It's interesting that the BBC have chosen to go back to the old approach of novelisation of the broadcast stories for Sarah Jane, while instead publishing original fiction featuring the Ninth and Tenth Doctors and Torchwood. I sense a didactic purpose, getting kids into the reading habit with these attractively covered volumes, each of them 119 pages of text in fairly large print (at a cost of £4.99 each, which, alas, is standard these days). I don't think it took me as long as an hour to read any of them.

Terrance Dicks is back again. I'm just thinking about this: he did the first proper Target novelisation, thirty-five years ago; he wrote the first of the Virgin New Adventures; he wrote the first of the BBC's Eighth Doctor Adventures; and now he's written the first of this range, putting in print the pilot story, Invasion of the Bane. It's a fairly standard Dicks novelisation, sticking closely to the show as broadcast with a certain undernuancing of the soon-to-be-axed Kelsey; he has a job to do and he does it well enough.

Revenge of the Slitheen impressed me least of the broadcast stories, but I think is actually the best of these four novels. Laight has taken Gareth Roberts' script and added a certain amount of depth and context, and messed around a little with the story. There's the occasional moment of unpolished style but it all works fairly well.

Eye of the Gorgon is the only one of the books to have been written by the same person as the TV script (in this case Phil Ford) and I felt that a fresh pair of eyes might have been a better idea: both here and in the original TV version, the story's substantial and profound foundations are rather wasted on a flimsy plot resolution. Also Ford makes several irritating mistakes which used to afflict the less experienced Target writers, shifting uncomfortably from direct to indirect speech, mixing point-of-view narrative with the TV viewer's perspective; and of course the page can't capture guest star Phyllida Law's performance.

With Warriors of Kudlak, Gary Russell has successfully taken liberties with the script, bulked out the role of some of the minor characters, and turned a decent story into a decent children's novel: with my one reservation, and it is a serious one, being that it has not been well proof-read, which seems a rather shocking omission. Hopefully they will correct the mistakes in a later printing. Dedicated (inter alia) to my cousin.

Anyway, I'd recommend all of these for the younger Who fan, who might then be persuaded to lend them to older Who fans.
Tags: bookblog 2008, doctor who, doctor who: sarah jane, doctor who: spinoff fiction, writer: gary russell, writer: terrance dicks

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