Saturday, 30 August 2014

'Doctor Who and the Stones of Blood' - Terrance Dicks (Target)

Searching for the third segment to the Key to Time brings the Doctor and Romana to present-day Earth, where the travellers have to contend with stone circles, Druidic rituals and a not-so-mythical goddess known as the Cailleach. 

Unsurprisingly at the moment, it's all about comfort reading for me right now (which explains why it has taken me weeks to get to where I am with A.J. Smith's 'The Black Guard' but more on that another time…) and it struck me how the term doesn't quite gel with a lot of genre fiction. For example, last night I was after a comfort read and, at one point, it came down to a choice between 'A Game of Thrones' and 'The Stand'… I guess 'comfort reading', in this case, is more about familiar settings and
characters rather than the story itself and that's why you're looking at another Doctor Who post today :o) The Target novelizations are all about
comfort reading for me; familiar stories that I either read or saw on the TV, all wrapped up in cosy memories of cheese on toast for tea and lunchtime trips to the mobile library that used to park outside the shopping centre. And where is that shopping centre now, eh? It’s the foundations of an Asda, that's where it is. But anyway…

I never saw 'The Stones of Blood' on TV but borrowed it from the library, as a kid, and was scared by it just enough to make me pick up a copy again from the local comic book store (which is incredibly well stocked on Doctor Who books, I sense the possibility of another collection starting up…) and see what how the intervening years had treated it. These days, a Doctor Who book is normally good for a bus ride to work and back and 'The Stones of Blood' proved no different in this regard. It still had the power to scare as well, mostly through what is implied rather than what you actually see happen. The note of fear in De Vries' voice, coupled with the keen timing of the Ogri attack, makes for a nerve wracking passage and there are more of these interspersed throughout the book.

I'm at the point now, with the Target novelizations, where it almost goes without saying that 'The Stones of Blood' is, for the most part, a 'by the numbers' retelling of what viewers would have seen on the TV. Dicks does take time though to capture that quirky sense of two mildly eccentric
people bouncing off each other (the Doctor and Professor Rumford) although I wasn't so keen on the way he basically gave away the identity of the main villain very early on. I know people would have seen the show before reading the book (so it wouldn't have been much of a surprise anyway) but
it still felt a little clumsy, in terms of structuring a book, to do the 'big reveal' so early.

There's also a slightly disjointed feel to the book in terms of how it slips from 'slightly Gothic horror' on the Moors to the overtly sci-fi element of the tale. When each piece is taken on its own though, both are done very well in terms of atmosphere (my personal favourites were all the bits set on Earth, just on case you hadn't worked it out already).

A nice little read then. It goes without saying (so I should probably stop saying it…) that fans of the TV show will get the most out of 'The Stones of Blood' and that is probably why I enjoyed it as much as I did. I do wonder why BBC Books aren't republishing these books in omnibus editions or
something like that...

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