BBC Books, out now hardback; out July 4th paperback
The Doctor wants a game of chess. Should be simple enough for him to organise, but when you factor in marauding Vikings, a reluctant bride, and an alien race that burns through life, it all becomes just that little bit more complicated…
Give Doctor Who to a hard science novelist, and chances are you’ll get a hard science-based book. But BBC Books have handed the plum assignment of this summer’s hardcover to a chicklit author – and in return we’ve got a terrific Doctor Who adventure that would work really well as the basis for a two-episode Matt Smith story, with nary an angst-ridden female in sight. J.T. Colgan (aka Jenny Colgan) brings her sharply honed characterisation skills to bear on the story she tells, and creates various groups of characters whose interactions ring true.
Setting this when the Doctor is travelling on his own removes the complications of capturing the mercurial byplay between the Time Lord and the Ponds. Colgan nails the eleventh Doctor’s love/hate relationship with humanity – he loves the potential, but hates some of the ways in which we behave. This sometimes makes him seem to be either disinterested, or acting contrary to expectations, and we are given a number of occasions where we see the Time Lord through others’ eyes before being made privy to the causes of his inaction.
Setting the story in the far north of the British Isles gives Colgan ample scope for some lyrical descriptions, and her research into the period shines through, with some occasionally surprising insights into the culture. There’s also a lovely moment where the reader is personally drawn into the story – and experiences something that secretly perhaps we’d all have liked as children.
Verdict: A terrific tale with some surprising twists and turns – more please! 8/10