Doctor Who: The Drosten's Curse by A L Kennedy

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Doctor Who: The Drosten's Curse by A L Kennedy

Category: Science Fiction
Rating: 4/5
Reviewer: John Lloyd
Reviewed by John Lloyd
Summary: From a surprising source comes a full-on and initially hilarious Dr Who adventure, if it unfortunately loses strength a little in becoming an evocation of psychic warfare.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 368 Date: July 2015
Publisher: BBC Books
External links: Author's website
ISBN: 9781849908269

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If, for some unearthly reason, you should follow the world of golf and hear of a bunker that's 'lethal' or 'a killer trap', point the speaker in the direction of a sand pit on the 13th at the Fetch Brothers Golf Spa Hotel. For it really is lethal – something under it will suck you down, handspan by handspan, anaesthetising you and making you incapable of crying out. David Agnew knows this, and uses it as a handy way to get rid of people he doesn't like. Elsewhere at Fetch there is a completely inept character – I needn't specify, as he's inept at everything – who's heartily smitten by Bryony, the hard-done-by receptionist. There is a grandma who it would appear is losing all memory, beyond for her beloved octopuses, two young children who are very wrong indeed, in lots of ways, and there's also a strangely metallic taste about the air in the place. A perfect site for the Fourth Doctor to pop up in, then – until a psychic attack leaves him with little opportunity to put the ageless problems to rights…

While not many would really have expected to see the name A L Kennedy on a Doctor Who novel, rest assured this is close to the pinnacle of the format. There is so much here for the fan to enjoy. She has an easy way with character, fitting all sorts of disparate entities into a well-evoked late 1970s, and making them distinctive – even if she seems to be jump-cutting pell-mell from one to the other over the reaches of the golf course and beyond. There is a strong build-up to the main drama of the situation, even when you might think the pudding is being over-egged. And there is a real sense of occasion, meaning this book comes as close as possible to deserving the hardback, prestige styling it's been given.

The occasion comes mostly from where the book pitches itself. This is seriously amusing Doctor Who, from comments about his cleanliness or otherwise during his adventures, to the inability of his scarf to hit anything and get him in to trouble (he does all that himself, of course). There are wonderful lines (something about whalesong played in the resort spa being in reality a heated argument over herring), and a great in-joke at the franchise's own expense (in one word, quarries). And there is quite a lot of archness about golf. Turn that into cricket, perhaps, and we get to what this book most evidently and most successfully wants to emulate – the Douglas Adams era of Who that the discerning fan holds in such esteem, if only for the missed opportunity it ultimately became.

The whole thing is delivered in such an airy, chatty style (again, that's down to the Adams influence, with lots of witty lines, daring truth-universally-acknowledged type phrasing, and so on) – which bizarrely manages to both heighten the drama when it really kicks off, and keep the more bloody elements of the plot disguised enough to make this a quite PG read. But that only works some way, and unfortunately for me the main thrust of proceedings took a long time to gel, and didn't help by the brisk and breezy beginning. But the biggest flaw in the book – and yes, it is still a 4 star read with large flaws, such was the initial enjoyment at least – is that this wasn't my Fourth Doctor. The lines he comes out with are fine but I hardly ever heard them in my head as coming from Tom Baker. I didn't mind the fact the TARDIS control room wasn't the traditional TV one, and I really didn't worry about the Doctor turning into a Pied Piper-type as the recent TV ones have been forced to do – this still didn't quite click as true vintage Who.

Like all good Doctor Who novels it grabs you immediately, and races through without letting you pause for breath, all the while leaving you with countless freeze-frame, come-back-next-week-to-see-him-get-out-of-that moments. Like all good Doctor Who novels, it is actually quite accessible to all, stalwart fans or otherwise, and of pretty much every age group. But unlike too many of the original 1970s and 1980s novels, this takes us away from the drama as defined by the TV script and puts us into the real world of a full-on, recognisable adventure, and not some self-contained, obvious fiction. The verite of the characters, the recognisably daft world of golf, and the immediacy of it all put this right on our doorstep and we only feel the eeriness and power of the plot all the more, however it might sag at times. Of course it helps that (once more) the Doctor is having to help out our small, unremarkable planet – but times like these are when we are most grateful for him being in our neighbourhood.

I must thank the publishers for my review copy.

For more reads, this time covering all the incarnations, we enjoyed Doctor Who: 12 Doctors 12 Stories by Malorie Blackman, Holly Black and others.

Buy Doctor Who: The Drosten's Curse by A L Kennedy at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Doctor Who: The Drosten's Curse by A L Kennedy at Amazon.co.uk.


Buy Doctor Who: The Drosten's Curse by A L Kennedy at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Doctor Who: The Drosten's Curse by A L Kennedy at Amazon.com.


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