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16 September 2007 @ 09:45 pm
Doctor Who: Wooden Heart  
This was more like it. Like all the recent Dr Who books Wooden Heart made a very quick read and like many it suffered from a belief that "Kiduldt"s need books with Kidult viewpoint characters but apart from those quibbles this one was well-written and thought-provoking. Genuniely Kiduldt in fact, demonstrating that you can handle complex issues both philosophical and inter-personal within the confines of a Dr Who adventure.

Martin Day produced a real mess of a first novel in The Menagerie way back when Virgin were publishing Who books but his writing has steadly improved since and the last two novels he wrote for the BBC books, Bunker Soldiers and The Sleep of Reason were really excellent. Partly, perhaps, constrained by the new format Wooden Heart is not as good as those two but it is a lot better than the other new who books I have read. It's weakest point, as already mentioned, is the Kiduldt, Jude. Somehow she just never seems real alternating between sophisticated maturity and self-awareness and childlike confusion without making those contrasts believable. On the plus side the set-up is striking and interesting while pinning its New Who colours firmly to the mast: this is a book about the human condition, and the companion's role is to humanise the Doctor and her actions are intended to teach him lessons as much as his intelligence is intended to teach them to her. This was probably originally intended as a Doctor/Rose team up since, IIRC, her brief was exactly that but on the whole the book benefits from Martha's greater introspection and erudition although you can see where Rose's "domestic" touch was probably intended to manifest in the original version. The book also manages to pull of the old Virgin novel cliche of a virtual world in a refreshing fashion and, after the number of virtual worlds we've seen in the Dr Who novels, that's no mean feat. One strength is that this virtual world has a distinct purpose rather than simply to provide surreal wierdness and reveal the workings of the Doctor and/or Companion's subconscious and in fact there is no surreal wierdness on display apart from the obligatory monster or at least no surreal wierdness that doesn't make complete logical sense within the parameters of the story. While I've said that Wooden Heart doesn't compare with the best of the adult-oriented novels that went before it does compare well with the vast majority of them and is, in many ways, distinctly more adult than many. It's ending is a bit pat, the science is (of course) hokum, but Jude aside, it never insults the intelligence of its reader while not shirking the responsibility of telling a simple story well.