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First, a warning - This review, whilst not spoiling any major plot points of the book itself, will contain SPOILERS for DOCTOR WHO SERIES FOUR which aired last year. Therefore, if for some bizarre reason you haven't actually seen that particular series and do not want to be spoiled, I advise you to flee from this page as if pursued by a gang of highly irritated Judoon at whom you've just shouted "You're just a bunch of rhinos in skirts, aren't you?"
One of the many glorious things about being a Doctor Who fan is that, unless you spend even minute of your spare time immersed in the world of the Time Lord, you will never, ever reach the end of all the delights on offer. No new series this year? How depressing. All we have to provide our fix of the Doctor are the classic series DVDs, new series DVDs, Big Finish audio dramas, comic strips, Target novelisations, BBC books featuring the doctors 1 to 8, and the New Series Adventures. Well, that's not all there is, but to list everything would take this review into territories of tedium I do not wish to enter. Suffice it to say, there's a lot.
The New Series Adventures are marketed more towards children than the BBC books featuring old school Doctors. The are beautifully designed little hardbacks with exciting covers and do look fantastic when you've got a few of them lined up on your book shelf. The stories themselves range from fairly dire to good strong adventures that you almost wish you could see played out on the screen. "Beautiful Chaos" by Gary Russell falls soundly into the latter camp, being the best of the New Series Adventures that I have so far read.
This is to a large degree due to the fact that it focuses on one of the most endearing characters the new series has given us so far - the eminently lovable, granddad-you-wish-you-had Wilf. In a touching nod to the events of the series four finale, where Donna's memories of her time with the Doctor were tragically erased, this book features a prologue and epilogue in which Wilf ruminates upon the effects of Donna's time with the Doctor and her subsequently losing it all.
The main story is therefore effectively presented as Wilf's recollection of events that occurred one month after the episodes "The Sontaran Strategem" and "The Poison Sky". As with ATMOS in that story, a piece of technology which seems miraculous is actually masking a plot for an alien entity to bring the human race under its control. Donna is home to see her family on the first anniversary of her father's death, and her granddad has news that he's discovered a new star in his amateur hilltop astronomy adventures. It soon becomes clear that there's another new star in the sky which is bright beyond all normality and has become known as a Chaos Body. The Doctor, Donna and Wilf become entangled with astronomers as they try to figure out what it actually means. Interwoven with this is the tale of Dara Morgan, the Bill Gates-style self made billionaire who runs MorganTech, who is busy brokering deals with international businessmen on the promise that Something Big is going to happen on Monday at 3pm, and is very clearly Up To No Good.
The characterisations are all very strong - Donna sarky yet caring, Sylvia bitter and grieving yet good at heart, Wilf fiercely kind and proud of his granddaughter, and the Doctor his frenetic, grinning-in-the-face-of-certain-doom self. Also very appealing is Netty, who appears as Wilf's astronomer companion who suffers from Alzheimer's, a sweet and intelligent character for whom Wilf's affection is clear. Adding to the book's charm is the fact that the alien turns out to be a foe from the Doctor's fourth incarnation, which gives it a nice sense of continuity to the old series as well as the new. There is also much focus on the dynamic of Donna's family, which will not be to the liking of every Doctor Who fan, but is handled with sensitivity and humour.
The only downside to this otherwise excellent book are the occasional hugely glaring examples of bad editing. Some sentences and paragraphs read like first drafts, like when Dara Morgan looks out of his window to view "Wembley Stadium, Centrepoint, the London Eye and other tall London structures", as if the author had planned to go back and list some more later but never bothered. Or when Donna's shout of "Oi!" is described as "a word/phrase/guttural noise", again as though he never bothered to look back and choose which word he wanted to use. Worst of all, Wilf is described at the end of the novel as reading astrology books in his allotment, instead of astronomy - an especially galling error as Wilf had expressed the very direct opinion earlier in the book about the inherent rubbishness of astrology!
This aspect of the book is a pity, because it takes away a little of the enjoyment of an otherwise fantastic read. Nevertheless, "Beautiful Chaos" comes very highly recommended from me as an excellent way to fill a little bit of the hole of this largely Doctor Who-free year.