Tuesday, 15 April 2014

‘Doctor Who: Illegal Alien’ – Mike Tucker & Robert Perry (BBC Books)

The Blitz is at its height. As the Luftwaffe bomb London, Cody McBride, ex-pat American private eye, sees a sinister silver sphere crash-land. He glimpses something emerging from within. The military dismiss his account of events - the sphere must be a new German secret weapon that has malfunctioned in some way. What else could it be?
Arriving amid the chaos, the Doctor and Ace embark on a trail that brings them face to face with hidden Nazi agents, and encounter some very old enemies.

I love ‘Doctor Who’ books, they’re a not very secret but definitely guilty pleasure of mine. If they’re not helping me catch up on stories that I never saw on TV, they’re filling in gaps in between the Doctor’s journeys and giving us even more stories to get into. The old Target novelizations will do me for half of my daily commute but ‘Illegal Alien’ is about three times the length and so has kept me going for a bit longer. It’s fair to say that ‘Doctor Who’ is one of those things that you either ‘get’ or you don’t and if you don’t get it then you’re unlikely to be picking the books up anyway. That automatically makes these books ones for fans only but the good news here is that ‘Illegal Alien’ falls very much into the ‘one that fans will very much enjoy’ category.

‘Illegal Alien’ has all the ingredients that any ‘Doctor Who’ story (book or TV show) needs to be successful, a lot of adventure all playing out for high stakes and being manipulated by someone who might just have outsmarted the Doctor himself. You have the iconic villain (in this case, the Cybermen) getting up to no good amongst a human cast who think that they are in control of things whilst being anything but. The Cybermen are great anyway but Tucker and Perry really bring them to life on the page with a real sense of presence alongside the destruction that they are able to wreak. This is one of the darker ‘Doctor Who’ books that I have read(maybe even the darkest) with the horror of the blitz combining with the horror of how the Cybermen increase their number. Tucker and Perry really take advantage of the fact that you can write stuff in a book that they would never let you show on TV. You have to experience some things by yourself to really get the full effect and these passages very much fall into that. All I’ll say is that the ‘Cyber baby’ is not as cute as it sounds, it’s not cute in the least bit..
Tucker and  Perry also really lay on the horrors of the blitz as well as the wider war itself; not only is the appropriate respect paid to a turbulent point in history but the constant bombing etc takes the reader’s attention off important plot stuff until it really matters and is a big surprise. We also get a sense of urgency as both sides are racing to use captured Cyber technology in order to win the war. People will do anything if they can then say that they are trying to do the right thing, this is used to develop certain characters in interesting ways over the course of the book.

‘Illegal Alien’ is a dark book then but it’s also a typical Doctor Who book with the Doctor and Ace running all over London and getting into all sorts of trouble before somehow managing to get out of it. It’s no different in that respect from any other Doctor Who story but again, Tucker and Perry avoid any potential pitfalls here by really capturing the two characters and what makes them so distinguishable. They’re doing the same old stuff but it’s the fact that it’s them doing it which makes proceedings so memorable. The fact that there are sub-plots dovetailing in and out of the main plot makes for an engaging read totally unlike some of the more linear tales that I have read in the past. There is always something going on and it all happens at a breakneck pace.

‘Illegal Alien’ is a book that it’s all too easy to get into and not as easy to put down. I was left hoping that the rest of the books in the ‘Monster Collection’ are as good and then I remembered that I reviewed two of them way back on the old blog :o) Click on the links for what I thought of ‘Touched by an Angel’ and ‘Prisoner of theDaleks’.

But back to ‘Illegal Alien’… It’s a great read and I totally recommend it to anyone who’s a fan or thinking of checking out ‘Doctor Who’ books, you won’t be disappointed (I wasn’t).

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