Unlike, say, Pride and Prejudice or To Kill a Mockingbird, The Stranger is not a title which will instantly stand out as a well known book. So what exactly is it? Well, it’s an obscure piece of erotica from several years back – but it’s not just a piece of obscure erotica from several years back, it’s also a Doctor Who novel in disguise! Now you begin to understand why I read this, even though my previous experience with erotica was extremely negative.
Let me explain the Doctor Who connection. The protagonist of the novel is a women named Claudia Marwood who meets a mysterious stranger who shows up near her house one day and can’t remember anything about himself. When they first meet, he’s wearing an Edwardian gentleman’s outfit and based on his description, he looks just like the Eighth Doctor. Funnily enough, they end up calling him Paul and what was the name of the actor who played the Eighth Doctor? Oh, yes. It was Paul McGann.
If that was all there was to it, this book wouldn’t really be anything more than a homage to the character, but it goes further than that. You see, the official range of Doctor Who novels later went on to explicitly reference Claudia and the events of this novel, retroactively making it an actual part of Doctor Who canon. After all, the novel series has been acknowledged as canonical with the audio adventures, which have been acknowledged as canonical with the television series.
So, I thought that connection was pretty cool. But what did I think of the actual content of the book? Well, to be honest, certain parts of it did make me a little queasy. Anything that involves bodily fluids (and especially the ingestion of bodily fluids) is a little too much for me. Some of the things that happened felt like they must have been written to appeal to really specific fetishes (for example, stuff involving urine…) but maybe I’m wrong. I am not an expert of human sexuality.
But something I did like was that none of the characters really seemed to be held back by gender. There’s a lot of sexual experimentation, with people realising that they’re attracted to the same sex and trying things for the first time. There’s actually quite a large variety in the sexual encounters (two men, two women, a man and a woman, a man and two women, etc.) and I like that. It felt very progressive. Plus, it means the Doctor has canonically had sex with a man – though I prefer to read him as an asexual character (which is pretty much impossible here) it’s nice to know that gender is not an issue for him.
Overall, I did appreciate the positive attitude to sex within this book. There was never any ambiguity when it came to consent and the interactions all felt very healthy to me. I was a bit concerned, however, that nobody ever took the time to use contraception – particularly as many of the characters take multiple partners… I also did start to find it a bit repetitive after a while – every chapter contains at least on sexual experience and, if I’m honest, I don’t really find these interesting to read about at all. Nonetheless, I did enjoy reading the book on the whole and I’d recommend it to any fans of Doctor Who who’re looking to explore the stranger corners of the expanded universe, or fans of erotic novels in general.