August 16

Doctor Who Engines of War – George Mann

The War Doctor
The War Doctor

Between 1989 and 2005 I read a lot of Doctor Who novels. For those not familiar with those dates they represent the years that The Doctor was largely absent from our televisions. But he lived on in print and I lapped up those stories. Thanks to the excellent Target Books range I could read the stories of the adventures that had been broadcast on TV between 1963 and 1989. Then along came Virgin Publishing who released a range of books (one per month at their peak) featuring the continuing adventures of the 7th Doctor. These were joined after a couple of years by Past Doctor stories – tales designed to slip in between the stories which had been broadcast on television and featured Doctors 1-6 and their respective travelling companions.

Then in 1996 we got the 8th Doctor TV Movie. Things changed (including the Doctor). BBC Books took back ownership of the Doctor Who stories and began a lengthy run of original novels featuring the 8th Doctor and they also published their own Past Doctor stories too. I would usually buy two Doctor Who books per month – for around 14 years. I have read A LOT of Doctor Who novels.

When the show re-launched on BBC in 2005 the books continued but the addition of 1 small child to our household curtailed the book buying for me.

However, my devotion to the print adventures of our favourite Time Lord puts me in a pretty strong position to assess the latest offering: Engines of War by George Mann.

I am happy to report that it is without doubt one of the best Doctor Who novels I have read. There are lots of things contributing to this and I cannot share them all because <Spoilers>. However, the chance to join The War Doctor is a great start. Throw in a feisty new companion, trips to Gallifrey, Daleks, Timelord political machinations and the unexpected return of some forgotten personalities and there were treats galore for the fans.

The author does a great job of creating the personality of the War Doctor, you can feel the spirit of the character we are so familiar with battling the necessity of the destruction he brings in this unfamiliar guise. Clearly the War Doctor is tormented by the path that he has forced to take and this comes through in Mann’s fast paced story.

To reveal too much of the plot would rob the reader of the chance to enjoy the story unfolding. Suffice to say that I would love to read more of this battle-weary Doctor’s exploits. The new companion (Cinder) was also a great addition to the mix, she and the Doctor enjoy snappy and entertaining dialogue and it is through her eyes we see how the Doctor almost seems to relish his confrontations with those who stand in his path.

Despite this being a War Doctor story we still see a figure determined to do the right thing, protect the innocent and try to bring solutions to lost causes. With little source material available to form a clear image of how the War Doctor could be expected to behave I believe that George Mann has done an admirable job of crafting a hero we can believe in.

The sheer volume of original Doctor Who novels that are available invariably means that some will slip into obscurity. Within both the Virgin and the BBC range of books are tales that lacked any real spark. There were stories which could have featured any characters and the plots were so generic that, aside from calling the main character Doctor, you had no inkling that you were reading about our favourite Gallifreyan. That is why Engines of War stands out – you are never in any doubt of the subject matter and the importance that the story takes in the mythos of Doctor Who adventures. Excellent reading to be had – go grab a copy.

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July 4

Doctor Who: Tales of Trenzalore

Richards, Mann, Finch, Morris
Richards, Mann, Finch, Morris

As it had been foretold, the armies of the Universe gathered at Trenzalore. Only one thing stood between the planet and destruction – the Doctor. For nine hundred years, he defended the planet, and the tiny town of Christmas, against the forces that would destroy it.
He never knew how long he could keep the peace. He never knew what creatures would emerge from the snowy night to threaten him next. He knew only that at the end he would die on Trenzalore.

Some of what happened during those terrible years is well documented. But most of it remains shrouded in mystery and darkness.

Until now.

This is a glimpse of just some of the terrors the people faced, the monstrous threats the Doctor defeated. These are the tales of the monsters who found themselves afraid – and of the one man who was not.
(Tales of Trenzalore documents four of the Doctor’s adventures from different periods during the Siege of Trenzalore and the ensuing battle:

Let it Snow – by Justin Richards
An Apple a Day – by George Mann
Strangers in the Outland – by Paul Finch
The Dreaming – by Mark Morris)

A review copy was kindly provided by Netgalley.

 

It needs to be made clear from outset that I am a long-standing Doctor Who fan and have been for around 35 of my 40 years. Love it, followed it, collected it and kept the faith from 1989 to the full resurrection when Rose aired. I collected the Virgin New Adventures, The Missing Adventures, the BBC collections of 8th and Past Doctors. I listen to Big Finish audio adventures and read the fantastic Doctor Who Monthly. I am a fan!

One thing that should also be known is that I found the concept of The Doctor being stuck for years on Trenzalore at the end of Matt Smith’s regeneration a bit….sad. All the buzz and energy he showed only to have his wings clipped and be made to ride out his time in the odd town of Christmas – this was an unexpected twist.

Fortunately, it appears his time was not too dull as evidenced within the 4 stories captured in Tales of Trenzalore. For fans of the classic stories there are some returning foes that will bring a nostalgic smile to your face. Newer fans can enjoy familiarity too as the Ice Warriors feature in the first story (no more reveals though, read to see who else appears!)

Each of the 4 stories are well paced and capture the essence of Smith’s Doctor. I have read several of Justin Richards previous Who novels and know he is very adept at crafting a strong adventure. No change here I was pleased to find. The introductory story in the collection whetted the appetite and made me crave the next tale.

I found An Apple a Day to be the most emotive story – classic enemy and Mann also showed the impact that the Doctor’s ongoing peril has upon the other citizens of Christmas.

Scroll down my Blog and you will see my newfound love of Paul Finch stories. Imagine my delight when I find Mr Finch’s name on the author’s list of a Doctor Who story! Strangers in the Outland un-nerved me most as this was the enemy I found the most threatening and the author really captured my attention with an isolated Doctor being relentlessly chased down. Strangers in the Outland ended all too soon for this reader!

Finally the Doctor reaching the end of his life faces another ‘classic’ enemy in The Dreaming. A strong story with a more frail Doctor than I like to contemplate but a Doctor who remains resolute and as ingenious as we would expect.

As a collection of stories I found Tales of Trenzalore to be a delight. I am shunning unread books to re-visit some Doctor Who stories and have dug out a couple of Doctor Who DVD’s to feed my inner fan.

5/5 for this collection – Grab this Book!

 

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