Thursday, 5 May 2011

‘Doctor Who: Hunter’s Moon’ – Paul Finch (BBC Books)

There’s going to be a little bit of ‘Doctor Who emphasis’ on the blog, over the next couple of days, as I’m once again being bitten by my refusal to cough up for a TV licence. Yep, the new series of ‘Doctor Who’ kicked off a couple of weeks ago and I’ve already missed one of the episodes... Oh well, I’m sure I’ll pick up the box set at some point in the future, I’ll be following these guys for their thoughts on the series and if you’re a fan then I reckon you could do a lot worse than follow them too.

In the meantime, thank goodness then for the veritable horde of books that prop up the franchise and provide something to be going on with for the likes of people like me who don’t get to watch the TV show straight away. As I’ve said before, the ‘Doctor Who’ books got me into the genre way back when and they’re still a lot of fun to read today.A new ‘Doctor Who’ book then is a bit of a treat and almost a guilty pleasure when set against some of the weightier books that I’ve got on the go at the moment. ‘Hunter’s Moon’ was a lightweight read but still very enjoyable...

Leisure Platform 9 offers all manner of games to its visitors but when a vicious gangster is dealing the cards... sometimes it’s better to sit the game out. Rory doesn’t heed this advice and before he knows it he’s entered into an entirely new game where he must run if he is to stand any chance of surviving the armed hunters chasing him.
The Doctor and Amy must infiltrate the contest if they are to stand any chance at all of rescuing Rory but soon find that they have problems of their own. How long can the Doctor maintain his pretence of being a vicious mercenary? And can Amy reach the Tardis without being captured all over again? A lot is riding on the outcome...

‘Hunter’s Moon’ is a nice slice of fun that hearkens back to the ‘Doctor Who’ of times past where episodes always ended in a cliff hanger and suffused the story in tension. It felt like anything could happen and that’s what kept you tuning back in week after week. That is ‘Hunter’s Moon’ in a nutshell with ‘alien danger’ and ‘Timelord ingenuity’ bouncing off each other and sending the plot bounding forwards into new territory. If that wasn’t enough you also get the excitement of the ‘chase scenes’ where Rory and the other fugitives must battle against hostile predators before they can even think of evading their captors... There is plenty happening and it all counts towards making the plot work. What I would say though is that you never get that feeling that the Doctor is in any real danger and that robs the piece of the tension that it really needs to fly. You could argue that the Doctor is never really in any danger, whatever he does, and this kind of approach is really the whole point. I’d kind of nod and agree with you but only a little bit. This approach works for a fifty minute TV episode but a book needs things to be a little more uncertain to really grease the wheels and make things spin. You can’t complain at the overall effect here though. I couldn’t stop reading and, at the end of the day, that’s what counts.

Older sci-fi readers, like me, will recognise the Leisure Platform 9 setting from any number of other ‘sci-fi noir’ efforts and you’ll probably also recognise the gangsters as well. There’s nothing original here but Finch does well to flesh out the setting with the appropriate hint of menace. You may have seen it all but Leisure Platform 9 takes on a life all of its own and that’s all you can ask of it really.

With a ‘tie-in’ series like this, it’s interesting to see how different authors will respond to the task of portraying the Doctor and his travelling companions; the TV show sets the precedent but you can’t help but wonder whether the writer will take any liberties with the character. Paul Finch decides to play it safe and show the characters as they are on TV. What is interesting though are the hints of conflict in the Doctor (on his responsibilities as a time traveller) and the work that goes into building up other supporting characters who take centre stage. Finch may have his hands tied with his depiction of the Doctor but he proves that he is more than capable of giving his readers characters that you want to find out more about.

What I wasn’t so sure about though was Finch’s decision to pay a little too much attention to what certain female characters were wearing. He lingers over the cat suit that Amy Pond is forced into and then tells his readers a little too much about a husband/wife relationship when one of the fugitives sees his wife in a rubber anti-toxin suit. I know that this is a theme being explored on the TV show and it works in that format as it’s dealt with relatively quickly and gives you something to think about as the show moves on. Here though… It all feels a little bit forced and tacked on, it certainly doesn’t do anything for the plot. I guess what works in TV doesn’t necessarily work on the page.

Despite this (and a couple of other small issues), ‘Hunter’s Moon’ remains an entertaining read that’s as good a way as any to spend a couple of hours. It may not entirely succeed at doing it’s job but what it does do is done well enough to keep you reading.

Eight and a Quarter out of Ten

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