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I once read a fantastic short story by Ray Bradbury about four astronauts as they floated away from the debris of their spaceship towards certain doom. They talk to one another through their headsets as one by one they perish. At the last moment we return to the surface of a planet where a small boy points towards the sky to his parent and remarks on the shooting star; only we know that is the body of an astronaut burning up on re-entry. This story was concise, clever, well written and made sense. So how come the Dr Who franchise can take a similar idea and mess it up so badly?
The Doctor and his companions Fitz and Compassion have had to flee from a spacecraft that is falling apart. The Doctor and Compassion manage to get into one escape pod, whilst Fitz gets in another. Rather than ending up in the same place they end up in extremely different environments. The Doctor wakes up to find that he is on a secret military base where everyone has their own agenda and suspicions run deep. Both he and Compassion find themselves on the end of a series of tortures to try and discover who they are. Meanwhile, Fitz has managed to come-to in a society much closer to Utopia. A city were no one earns money but works in a relaxed environment for free. After a certain time each member of this society will be deemed clean another to transcend to the next stage in a red taxi. With the Dr being tortured and having no way to find Fitz who is really the most in danger as blissful societies are not always what they at first seem to be
There is little wrong with the initial set up of this book as it is very interesting to compare a military and suspicious world with that of one that lives in peace. For the first third of the book the author Natalie Dallaire managed to flit from one to the other and pose some interesting parallels (just like the title). The best thing about science fiction in my opinion is that you are able to come up with really interesting ideas that just do not occur in the real world. If you can couple these fantasy worlds with real life issues you are on to a winner. To an extent Dallaire succeeds especially in her description and handling of the militaristic Parallel 59 base.
Parallel 59 is a secret base populated by the greatest scientists and military minds on the planet. They are obsessed that an alien race is going to strike them down and for the past 30 years they have been building up an impenetrable defence. However, 30 years is a long time for people to work together so there is a large amount of cost cutting and one-upmanship. I thought that this was similar to the way in which both the West and East spend billions of creating and maintaining nuclear capability despite never being able to use them.
With an interesting set up (one in which I am probably giving Dallaire far too much credit for) the book fails in other areas. Firstly, Dallaires writing is poor, particularly as the conclusion draws nearer. With such a complex storyline it is imperative that the author keeps a tight reign so that the reader does not get confused. Unfortunately for this novel the opposite happens and the final third descends into a complete mess ruining an otherwise decent novel.
I also have issue with the number of characters in the book that we are meant to concentrate on. This is a Doctor Who novel and to me that means concentrating on him and perhaps his companions. However, Dallaire seems to consider it necessary to include lots of one off characters with similar alien sounding names. This only added to my confusion as the many backstabbing characters end up with different fates. I gave up trying to understand what was going on at that point and merely concentrated on the Doctors plight, like the author should have done.
The 8th Doctor is still my favourite Doctor to read about as I find him more humorous and caring than some of the others. However, even his humour can not prevent this book from being an incoherent mess. Misery is only added when the reader realises that the great initial set up of the story is being frittered away. Perhaps a better writer would have edited the book to make it more comprehensible, instead I was left reading yet another worse than average Doctor Who tie-in novel from the BBC.
Author: Natalie Dallaire
Price: amazon uk - £0.25 second hand only
We're straight into the action in Parallel 59; the Doctor, Compassion and Fitz are hurrying to get themselves into escape capsules to get away from a space station. Fitz takes one capsule while the Doctor and Compassion take another. Compassion manages to use a psychic link of some form to steer their capsule down onto the planet Skale where the military promptly arrest them as spies and try to find out how much they know. Fitz meanwhile finds himself in a place called Mechta, a kind of hospital city where citizens from 'homeworld' are sent to recuperate until they are summoned to return. On Mechta everyone is equal and Fitz is given a house and a job, and before long has two girlfriends but no cigarettes.