The Author: Gary Russell
How I Found It: As I stated in my last review, I've become a tad enamored with Doctor Who. Really, just a bit. (*cough*)
The Review: The Doctor, Amy, and Rory have landed on Earth in 1936--a far cry from Rio, which is what they were aiming for. The TARDIS has picked up some kind of distress signal, and of course they'd like to help.
Just as it always does, the situation becomes more complicated for the Doctor and his companions. Rory realizes that Oliver Marks, a local man, is suffering from PTSD, which is poorly understood in 1936 and more than likely related to whatever extraterrestrial threat is approaching. The Doctor is certain something off about their host, Nathaniel Porter, and his two wives: the first Mrs. Porter, dead from mysterious circumstances, and the current, an archaeologist named Enola who's going to dig up the remains of an alien ship, the Exalted, which crashed in the town over four thousand years before.
And Amy? Well, Amy's not acting like herself. She knows perfectly well the Doctor isn't from Mars, so why does she say he is? Why does she know of Enola Porter, while the Doctor and Rory don't? The Doctor and Rory are running out of time to figure out what's going on, and if they fail, the entire town might fall to the threats of the malevolent Tahnn.
In order to decide which Doctor Who novels to read, I looked at reviews from various outlets. Without fail, the reviewers were (of course) avid Whovians who could comment on characterization (the most important part, to me; I've read some dreadful tie-in novels), plotting, and if it actually feels like an episode of the show. The reviews for this one were almost overwhelmingly positive, and all of them complimented the characterization of Rory, my current favorite character on the show and one who doesn't get quite enough love. He's mainly been second fiddle to the Doctor and Amy so far, something I'm hoping will change this series, so it was really nice to see a writer give him the spotlight.
Amy's not much of a figure here, but she felt pretty in character to me (and had more of an appreciation for Rory than she does in the show proper, which was nice). The characterizations of the Doctor (Eleven, in Whovian parlance) and Rory, individually and together, are the real standout of this novel. Rory gets some backstory (a touching anecdote about nursing a childhood friend, some light shed on his motivations for becoming a nurse, and a glimpse into his feelings during the years Amy was waiting for the Doctor). He is portrayed as a competent and caring nurse, and the Doctor learns to value and appreciate his insight. A favorite exchange of mine: "Rory, you are more magnificent than I thought you were before... I've said that a lot lately, like I expected you to be a bit dim. I'm sorry, I had no right to treat you that way" (185). They get several touching moments and Russell gave them a great dynamic; I'd like to see him do another novel with these characters.
The Doctor is almost entirely spot on; Russell captured his manic energy, impatience with humans, and more-than-occasional ridiculousness quite well. I loved an early scene that just about summed him up:
"Doctor?"Russell also sneaks in a reference or two to the Doctor's previous incarnation (Ten, as played by David Tennant), and those made me very happy, since the Doctor's other incarnations aren't referenced much at all in the show itself now. There was one weak moment that distracted me: the Doctor having trouble remembering the name of Nathaniel Porter's cook. Really? The Doctor, who makes it his duty to know everyone's name, so much so that it was a plot point and defining character moment in "The Vampires of Venice"? I couldn't see it and it made me knock a few points of the characterization tally, but other than that, everything was fantastic.
"Quiet, Rory, I'm talking to a sheep."
"All right, strictly speaking, I'm talking at a sheep, but I'm pretty sure I'm getting through." The Doctor sniffed. "Blimey, Mr. Sheep, you smell bad. No... wait... nope, you're all right, I smell bad. Wow. That is bad. Sorry."
Okay, so some of the aliens were a little bit silly. We've got the good, woolly aliens--the crew of the Exalted, known as the Weave--and the bad aliens, the Tahnn. The woolly aliens were a little bit much for me to take, and overall their concept seemed just a bit to similar to the Autons. Same function--duplicating a human host--but with wool instead of plastic. Really? That was something I think should have been tweaked and changed. One of the opening scenes where we see the Tahnn's reign of destruction on the little village is pretty horrific, as is their effect on Oliver Marks (whose PTSD is touchingly portrayed), so I give them good marks.
I'm not quite sure I caught every nuance of the plot--the names of the Weave, which were solely numbers, kept throwing me off, so by the end I was slightly muddled but catching on. This is one, though, that I definitely wouldn't mind rereading a time or two--it did some things better than the show did and was a quick read to boot. If you're a Whovian looking for something to while away the wait between an episode or a Rory fan like myself, I definitely recommend this one! (Not for non-Who fans; I'm betting they'd be a bit lost.)