The Silent Stars Go By

Posted: March 17, 2014 in Book reviews

A Doctor Who novel By Dan Abnett

The Doctor promises to take Amy and Rory home to Leadworth for Christmas, unfortunately (and unsurprisingly) he instead materialises the Tardis on a distant planet inhabited by the Morphans, descendants of the original human colonists whose entire reason for existence is to keep giant terraforming engines working whilst they slowly, over a period of generations, transform the planet into something more earth like.

The trouble is things are going wrong. For the last three years the planet’s been gripped by winter, and there are reports of strange creatures prowling the forest, creatures who are likely responsible for the death of livestock, and maybe even the disappearance of some of the Morphans.

When the three newcomers arrive the Morphan’s initial response is one of distrust, and suddenly Amy and the Doctor are imprisoned, whilst Rory finds himself pursued through the nearby woods by hulking creatures with sonic weapons…

It isn’t much of a plot spoiler to reveal that the novel features the return of the Ice Warriors given that Abnett gives it away in his introduction, and certain printings have Ice Warriors on the cover. Even without these hints it’s soon pretty obvious who’s behind the cold snap on the planet known as Hereafter.

Abnett is a well-known writer in science fiction circles, responsible for a highly successful series of books based on the Warhammer 40,000 game, as well a whole host of other work; 2000AD comic scripts, tie-in novels like this one, and his own original novels. He’s incredibly prolific, to the point where you might imagine he could churn a novel like this out in double quick time.

Which it kinda feels like he did.

Which isn’t to say that the book is without its charms. The characterisation of Matt Smith’s Doctor, as well as Amy and Rory, and the interactions between them are spot on; aside from one laboured running joke that just isn’t funny. Similarly the Ice Warriors, always more three dimensional foes than the Daleks or the Cybermen, are handled well, and there are a few twists and turns at the end in terms of what’s really going on.

Unfortunately too much of the novel is, at best, average. From the repetitiveness of various characters being chased by various lumbering Ice Warriors through various snowy landscapes/buried spaceships, to the Morphans and their quaint customs and language based on the corruption of once familiar terms. It’s such a well-worn science fiction trope that, if you’re going to do it, you should really do it better than Abnett does here.

It isn’t a terrible book, just more than a little workmanlike. Diverting enough, but not something that will linger long in the memory after you’ve finished it reading it.

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