Doctor Who Book Review: The Quantum Archangel

doctor who book review the quantum archangel sixth doctor mel craig hinton valeyard past doctor adventures

Hear me, Lord of Time. We are a vengeful people. Our reach is infinite and our patience eternal. For your actions, we will have vengeance. And the vengeance of the Chronovores is terror beyond imagining.

One of the most interesting concepts the show has thrown out across 50 years is, I think, the Valeyard. A dark mirror – wait, I’ve used this opening already, haven’t I?

Like Time of Your LifeThe Quantum Archangel uses the concept of the Valeyard to explore the Doctor’s character, and in particular his relationship with Mel. The book opens with the pair reeling from the destruction caused by a nuclear war on the planet Maradnias – a war which was, ultimately, the Doctor’s fault. In what proves to be a wonderfully written opening, Mel decides to leave the Doctor, and return home. You get a real window into their thought processes, and you can understand every choice they make.

… except the novel doesn’t quite open with that. Beforehand, there’s a prologue with the Eternals, the Guardians, and the Chronovores, which sets up a lot of details that will become important later on in the book – the Six Fold God, Calab-Yau space, and so on and so forth. These bits really come into play in the latter half of the story. It’s brilliantly realised, and full of very intricate detail that definitely adds to the proceedings.

So with that setting the scene – immensely powerful beings from before the dawn of time, the Doctor feeling the guilt of his actions and mistakes, Mel trying to start a new life outside of the TARDIS – the plot begins. And it’s one hell of a plot.

Essentially (and I’m simplifying a fair bit) the Master is fleeing the Chronovores, and decides that in order to survive, he must become a God – the Quantum Archangel. And, naturally, this is all goes very, very wrong…

Beyond that, I won’t go into much more detail about the plot for fear of spoilers, but I might talk about it in more depth another time. It’s the sort of thing I wouldn’t want to ruin; there’s some really wonderful, reality-bending stuff, which is best experienced with no foreknowledge I think. (I will say this though – the section with Mel includes the most frightening scene I’ve ever read in a Doctor Who novel)

The characters are all handled really well; I loved reading about this chapter in the development of the Doctor and Mel’s relationship. Equally, the Doctor and the Master’s relationship is painted quite well, typifying the way they interact somewhere between enemies and old friends.

It’s not perfect, sure – it’s built around a pretty massive coincidence – but a lot of the flaws that people tend to pick with it are a bit exaggerated. There’s a lot of continuity references, but they don’t feel all that obtrusive to me. It’s also a sequel to The Time Monster, which isn’t the most popular of serials, but it’s still pretty accessible if you haven’t seen it (like myself!).

Overall, it’s a great book, and it’s really worth a read. Especially for fans of the Sixth Doctor, I think, but that’s everyone, surely. The Quantum Archangel tells a truly epic story, but tells it in a uniquely Doctor Who way – it’s close, intimate, and full of a hope.

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Doctor Who Book Review: Blue Box

doctor who book review blue box kate orman jon blum sixth doctor peri hackers computers cover hd

They had an unusual relationship, these two travellers. The Doctor was twice Peri’s age at least, but he didn’t act like a father or an uncle – more like a big brother with a bad case of sibling rivalry. 

Recently I bought quite a few of the old Classic Who books, that were published when the show was off the air. I bought quite a few with the Sixth Doctor, and one of those books was Blue Box, by Kate Orman.

I was looking forward to reading this quite a lot – one of the few EDAs I’ve read, Vampire Science, was co-written by Kate Orman, and it’s an exceptionally good book. The same applies here; Blue Box is an absolutely fantastic read.

The plot is pretty clever, and not the sort of thing I’d ever really seen on Doctor Who before. It’s a novel about computer hackers, basically, and the Doctor has to join in with that world. There’s a lot of moving about from place to place (on a road trip!) as the Doctor, Peri, and two new characters track down Sarah Swan, another hacker, who has gotten hold of an alien computer device. It’s very well suited to a novel, and not the sort of thing you’d find in a TV episode.

For the most part, Blue Box is written in the first person, from the perspective of journalist Chuck Peters, who’s trying to write an article on the world of hackers. Because it’s all from his perspective, you see the way he rationalises it, swinging between assuming the Doctor was a Russian agent trying to find an American superweapon, or a British agent with his own agendas. Admittedly, this style of prose doesn’t always work – there’s quite a few instances where the character narrates things he wasn’t present to or couldn’t have known – but on the whole it was a nice change to the norm.

The key thing about Blue Box is characterisation though. Every character us absolutely pitch perfect. The new characters, Bob (a hacker friend of the Doctor’s, enlisted on the road trip for tech support) and Chuck both shine; they’re very distinctive, realistic characters. (There’s an interesting twist about Chuck and his background, which I wasn’t quite sure what to think of, but I’ll hold off in case of spoilers.) Sarah Swan is a perfect villain for this story – she’s petty, greedy and vindictive, and I guarantee you will hate her by the end of it. Other background characters like Mondy and Luis Perez also fit the story and add really well to the tone of the novel, creating a detailed view of the hacker world.

What’s really fantastic though is the Doctor and Peri. Because this story is set in America, near Peri’s home, what Kate Orman does is examine Peri’s homesickness, and why exactly she still travels with the Doctor, now he’s quite so abrasive. Their bickering is really well described, but it’s also made very apparent that the pair do care about each other a lot. It’s quite touching at times, and it’s absolutely how I think of them – sometimes the bickering is quite terse, but behind it is genuine affection. All in all, this is an excellent book. I loved the focus on technology, on computers when they were brand new. It’s particularly nice to read that now, when computers are such a big part of our lives. I’ll give it an 8/10.

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