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There are certain things that make small boys smile with glee such as; ninjas, dinosaurs, superheroes and sea creatures. If I was a movie exec I could easily come up with some cynical method of exploiting this youthful enthusiasm by combining more than one group. Imagine a film about ninja fighting dinosaurs that set off to fight a superhero race of giant sea creatures. Are you trying to tell me that wouldnt make at least $500,000,000 in box office receipts? Two areas that have been particularly popular for kids recently have been Doctor Who and Pirates. Therefore, it was no surprise to an old cynic like myself that I happened to come across a book that combined these two entities; The Resurrection Casket.
When the Doctor and Rose land on a planet that has a magnetic pulse they soon realise that the TARDIS wont work. Finding themselves locked out of their home from home they must try and find a way off the planet to get away from the pulse. An opportunity occurs when a local landlord hires them to search local space for a mysterious casket that reportedly has the power to resurrect the dead. They now find themselves on a spaceship run on steam with a crew of steam driven robots. Can they discover the mysterious casket whilst trying to escape in the TARDIS?
The Resurrection Casket is certainly a mixed bag when it comes to quality. As a Doctor Who fan I have read many of the books and I have noticed that the more recent BBC books have moved to a more juvenile demographic. Therefore, the book forgoes any logic in the hunt for better imagination and action. I found the idea of a planet devoid of traditional electricity an interesting one. However, I think the concept of robots and spaceships powered by steam too far fetched even for me. However, what I kept in mind throughout the book is the what impact these ideas would have on a younger reader. Combining steam, pirates and space travel is a heady combination; one that you can not fail to enjoy.
Another slight issue I had with this book is that it was yet another pirate based novel that stole verbatim from Treasure Island. Why does every juvenile fiction book that contains pirates have to have a character called Jim? If you are someone who has read Robert Lewis Stevensons book before you will soon find yourself knowing whats going to happen; pretty much the same thing but with Robots!
Dismissing The Resurrection Casket as juvenile rubbish would be too harsh. Although it does wrack up the clichés at an astonishing rate the fact that the people who this is aimed at do not know them, means that it remains valid. An 8-13 year old may not have read Treasure Island so the tale of revenge and treachery remain fresh. I also like the way in which the robots were portrayed. These steam powered monoliths become increasingly self reliant as they move away from the home planet. Ideas like this and the concept that a spacecraft runs on steam are enough to stir anyones imagination.
One other reason that makes this book appeal more than an otherwise poor science fiction book is that its about Doctor Who. If you are a fan of the show, which I imagine you must be to pick up a tie in novel, then he is present in all his glory. Justin Richards writes Tennants Doctor in just the right style not being overly serious, but not lampooning him. Rose is, as usual, a bit dull, but even she is useful as a way to move the plot on.
Richards has most of his success in the creation of the other characters in the book, all who act as derivative of Stevensons story. The likes of Jim and Long John Silver have all been reimagined in a space setting. It should also be pointed out that although this novel is obviously aimed at a younger audience there are some moments that get gory. One great element of the book is that if you are cursed with the black spot (see original book) you are hunted down and killed by a mysterious (and intelligent) being. The moments were the creature appears are amongst the funniest and scariest in the book perhaps too scary for the very young.
Overall, I would find it a bit harsh to rate this book poorly just because the writing style is simple and that the ideas are ridiculous. It was not aimed at me so when I see a steam powered spaceship as absurd, a child might see a world of amazing adventure. I also think that if a book can make someone younger try a classic like 'Treasure Island it can not be a bad thing. At a short length the book moves along at a good pace and is finished before you know it. Any younger fan of Doctor Who would love this as a first adult novel or as something to be read at night (maybe by a parent). However, if you are a Dr Who reader who is used to the more mature 7th and 8th Doctor books you are no longer catered for.
Author: Justin Richards
Price: amazon uk - £5.24
play.com - £5.49
Starfall is a world on the edge, where crooks and smugglers hide in the gloomy shadows and modern technology refuses to work. And that includes the TARDIS. The pioneers who used to be drawn by the hope of making a fortune from the mines can find easier picking elsewhere. But they still come - for the romance of it, or old-fashioned organic mining. Or in the hope of finding the lost treasure of Hamlek Glint - scourge of the spaceways, privateer, adventurer, bandit...Will the TARDIS ever work again? Is Glint's lost treasure waiting to be found? And does the fabled Resurrection Casket - the key to eternal life - really exist? With the help of new friends, and to the horror of new enemies, The Doctor and Rose aim to find out...This work features the Doctor and Rose as played by David Tennant and Billie Piper in the acclaimed hit series from BBC Television.