The twelfth novel in the Virgin New Adventures series of Doctor Who books sees the Doctor and Bernice landing in a planetary system which was known to have mysteriously disappeared. As you might imagine, this is a premise which leads to disaster for them.
The story jumps between several different threads that are all taking place within the same planetary system. One small niggle that I have comes from the fact that the Doctor and Bernice become separated near the start and spend most of the novel having separate but connected adventures. This is something Doctor Who stories do a lot for some reason, but I think it’s a bit disappointing, because I always love to see the interactions between the Doctors and their various companions.
Having said that, my disappointment about the separation was relatively short-lived, because the Doctor spends most of the novel teamed up with the historic poet and artist, William Blake. In fact, that’s him on the front cover. I never would have seen that coming, but I thought it was a pretty cool pairing. Together they travel through a monster-filled wasteland, and even nineteenth century London.
Bernice, meanwhile, is teamed up with an android named Spike, who is technically trying to hunt her down because he thinks she is a shapeshifting fugitive, and the two have to survive navigating a vast jungle together. Though I liked William Blake more, I did think that Spike was a really cool standalone character too. Later a bunch of space criminals show up too, and they were pretty interesting.
What was most interesting to me about this one is that it was very different from your typical Doctor Who adventure (or most of them, anyway). The Doctor and his companion aren’t here to beat an enemy and save the day, rather they’re getting caught up in a series of horrible events and just doing their best to stay alive. In the end, I thought it was definitely one of the bleaker Doctor Who novels that I’d read, but not in a really horrible way.
So while this is a pretty edgy Doctor Who book, it’s also not too on-the-nose about it. I wish the Doctor and Benny got to interact more (they’re great when they’re together), but their solo adventures were pretty great too. Most importantly, it was paced well and made me want to keep reading throughout (some Doctor Who novels drag a bit), so it’s definitely one of the better New Adventures and I think it’s well worth reading (it even has some ancient Time Lord secrets!)