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Science Fiction is a genre loved by a hardcore, but alienated audience. There are very few sci fi books that manage to cross over to the mainstream and this is all down to the opinion people have of the genre. Its seen as overly complicated and people feel that they will be unable to get their minds around events and things that could not exist on this world. However, this is a real shame because as most sci fi lovers realise the best books in the genre are not about the technologies or the aliens, but the concepts, characters and the stories. Classic novels like John Wydhams Day of the Triffids tell the story of an alien plant race killing the inhabitants of Earth. However, the story is actually about the people who survive and how they go on with their lives. The fact that the wonderful character narratives are surrounded by the unreal is only a by-product. Therefore, it is a shame when you read a science fiction book that undermines this and highlights all the clichés and stereotypes the genre has. The type of book that if a non-genre reader decided to give a go would put them off ever reading another book in the shame section of the book shop. Doctor Who: Beltempest is one such book and as such is a disgrace to the sci fi genre.
The Doctor and Sam are enjoying a leisurely rest on a beach the Doctor had created in the TARDIS when suddenly they are thrust apart and wake up in different places. The Doctor finds himself aboard a medical ship that is trying to help survivors of a planet that is being destroyed by the dying of its Sun. Unfortunately for Sam she finds herself on the planets surface and is only able to survive when she gives her life to a mysterious preacher. The Doctor soon realises that the solar systems Sun is dying and one by one the planets are going to be engulfed. Can he handle the warring planets enough to force them to co-operate whilst trying to unravel Sams new obsession with religion?
I have somehow managed to create a coherent synopsis for this book, but by doing so I am giving you the only sense of understanding that will come from this story. It is an absolute mess and is probably the most incoherent narrative I have ever read. The structure of the story begins strangely but for the first fifth I was able to follow what was going on. However, Mortimore has written this book so poorly that I was utterly confused after this. The storyline that follows the Doctor is relatively ok as I understood what he was doing and where he was. However, this is certainly not the case with Sam as she seemed to pop up all over the place. Sometimes the narrative was told from her imagination, other times in the real world. There was little way of understanding which was which.
The story was made even worse by the pseudo science and psycho babble that Mortimore added to the novel. I believe that he was trying to explore the act of sacrifice and how a few must die for the many to live. However, rather than keeping it succinct like this he decided to have Sam die, be resurrected and then begin to talk to an imaginary voice in her head. This was confusing enough, but then Mortimer completely ruins the book by adding a thick layer of mumbo jumbo. For around 100 pages of the book the narrative is interspersed with strange witterings as Sam talks to herself. These musings make little sense and add absolutely nothing to the plot. It is this type of self loving writing that puts people off reading science fiction. After all this is a Doctor Who tie novel, not a Booker Prize contender.
Having had an issue with the structure of the novel and the story itself I must also point out that Mortimore is awful at portraying the characters. IMO you can do what you want with Sam as she is a companion and will eventually be replaced. The character of the Doctor is a different thing all together and any author tackling him must take into account the TV shows and books. The 8th Doctor is my favourite because he is laid back, yet amusing. Mortimore writes him like a mad man. He is unable to grasp the Doctors view on life and instead allows him to sit back and watch billions of people die. This is not the Doctor as fans know it and is another sign that Mortimore should not be asked to write any more books about the show.
Tie in novels are not the place for great literature and mind expanding experiences, but I have found many a pleasurable read in series such as Doctor Who and Star Trek. An author can take the rigid themes of a TV show and add a bit of themselves into the mix. It is unfortunate that Mortimore is a self deluded author who thinks fans of the Doctor want to read loads of old tripe. Any new fans to the books will soon be turned off by the confusing nature of the story, the poor writing style, and supposedly intellectual ramblings found within. I would recommend that even fans of the 8th Doctor series avoid this book and instead read something like the great Year of the Intelligent Tigers.
Author: Jim Mortimore
Price: amazon uk new and used - £0.01 (not worth even that)
The plot is another interplanetary adventure involving suns not behaving quite how they should, and this more overtly science-fiction approach may be part of the problem. If the Doctor is going to get involved in this sort of adventure then the lives of millions of humanoids do become insignificant compared to the events unfolding around them. Do construction workers worry about the lives of ants as they cover their nests with concrete in order to build? Are humans concerned about the death of microscopic bacteria every time they clean the kitchen? This is the dilemma here. Jim Mortimore has painted his canvas too large, and any human interest has been shunted to one side in favour of the incredible science fiction concepts he is describing.