Friday, 24 January 2014

Graeme does Comfort Reading - 'Doctor Who and the Dalek Invasion of Earth' (Terrance Dicks)

So I’ve spent most of this week trying to get one daughter to settle whilst hoping the other doesn’t wake up (changing nappies in the dark is not a good thing at all…) and trying to get all my coursework in order for college (handed the folder in and hoping that it doesn’t need any more work on it) whilst also trying my hardest to look like I know what the hell I’m doing at work. Absolutely shattered is the phrase of the day then and I am so looking forward to going to bed tonight and sleeping until Sunday night.
With all that in mind then, did I spend the commute into work reading something new and trying to get my had round the plot? Or… Did I opt for some good old fashioned comfort reading and give my brain a rest? Okay, I know what the title of the post says but pretend you didn’t read it…
Here’s the answer,

Sometimes comfort reading is the only thing to do. Something familiar and easy just to help your brain tick over, something where you can let the plot just flow round you if you’re not up to paying too much attention to what is going on. Something very much like ‘The Dalek Invasion of Earth’, a book that I’ve had on my shelves for a good thirty years at least (maybe a little bit more). The plot is very simple (as is the case with most Doctor Who books and shows); there is an alien threat and the Doctor defeats it. It’s the Daleks though and that always adds a little extra urgency to the proceedings even if you just know that the Doctor will take care of business. They’re cold blooded killers after all and there is plenty of that going on here with Daleks merrily exterminating the human rebels whether they keep fighting or surrender.
Terrance Dicks is the man most people automatically think of when talking about the ‘Doctor Who’ Target novelisations and I’ve got to say that he’s done a really good job here; I must have read this book hundreds of times but he still keeps me hooked by focussing on the aforementioned evil of the Daleks. Their seeming invincibility is also emphasised as well with a couple of really powerful moments where human fighters think they have destroyed a Dalek, only for it come rolling out of the smoke just as deadly as ever.

What really struck me on this read though is the element of horror that Terrance Dicks brings to this novelisation. We have a chase through a work camp where characters are being hunted by the Slyther, a monster that the Daleks brought with them from the planet Skaro. You don’t actually see the Slyther for most of this chase, you only see the reactions to its howl but that is more than enough to get the blood pumping and share in the fear of those being chased. Really suspenseful stuff here.
It wasn’t these moments that really got me though. Dicks opens ‘The Dalek Invasion of Earth’ with a Robo-Man (essentially a lobotomised human) committing suicide and that is really powerful stuff coming from what is essentially a kids book. A human being altered to such a degree that the pain and despair have driven him to kill himself; it was this passage that really drove it home…

‘He fell, like a log or a stone, making no attempt to save himself. Dragged down by the weight of the helmet, his head sank beneath the grimy waters. There was something inhuman about the manner of his death – but then, he had not been truly human for a very long time.’

Imagine reading that when you were only six or seven years old… Funnily enough, at the time it didn’t make that much of an impression on me (I was pretty good at reading but not quite so hot with what they actually meant sometimes) but now I look at that and think, “Wow, that’s strong stuff…”

Having seen what I’ve written then, you wouldn’t think that ‘The Dalek Invasion of Earth’ is much of a comfort read then but I’d have to disagree. Like I said, familiarity breeds comfort and so does the message running throughout these books, the Doctor always defeats evil. It’s also a book that lets me escape to more comfortable (for comfortable, read ‘nostalgic’) memories in my head, times when pressing concerns generally involved whether I could bolt my dinner fast enough to be able to get down and watch Doctor Who on the TV. Maybe not easier times but definitely comfortable times. That’s why I love the occasional comfort read and would heartily recommend you do something similar every now and then. What are your comfort reads?

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