My Rating: 3.5/5 TARDISes
Date Published: November 19th, 2015
Publisher: Penguin Random House UK
Pages: 160 pages
Synopsis: The Galactic Fair has arrived on the mining asteroid of Stanalan and anticipation is building around the construction of the fair’s most popular attraction – the Death Ride! But there is something sinister going on behind all the fun of the fair; people are mysteriously dying in the Off-Limits tunnels. Join the Doctor, Amy and Rory as they investigate…
*I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review*
This is a spoiler-free review.
The Doctor, Amy, and Rory land on Stanalan—an asteroid used for mining—which, as they soon find out, contains an entire civilization. The caretaker, Perpetual Pete, who has been there far longer than anyone living on Stanalan can even remember, has marked some of the old mining tunnels as Off-Limits. He claims that they require maintenance, says they are liable to collapse, and forbids anyone from traveling down them. With the arrival of the Galactic Fair and the construction of an attraction called the Death Ride, Pete has his hands full attempting to keep the workers from building parts of the ride’s track in those tunnels. However, people begin to turn up dead in those Off-Limits areas, appearing to have died from something far worse than collapsing walls.
I found the plot to be fairly predictable, but that did not take away from my enjoyment of it. Richards did a wonderful job of building intrigue and tension in the opening chapters of the novel. He unveiled the important details at the right pace to create the tense and mysterious atmosphere that the story required. I do wish there had been a bit more use of the Doctor, but given the length of the story, I thought there was a decent balance in the attention given to each character; each member of the trio contributed an equal amount to the progression of the plot. There were times that the story felt a bit choppy or like it was jumping a bit too quickly over certain aspects, but those sacrifices are to be expected in a shorter novel, and I felt that Richards handled it well.
I definitely felt that the first half of the story was a lot stronger than the second half. The ending was quite clunky and had me shaking my head on numerous occasions. It seemed like it was trying to be fairly typical of a conclusion to an episode of the show. However, they had gotten into such a predicament that there was very little that could be done to avoid a “deus ex machina” sort of situation. Though my suspension of disbelief is pretty good for Doctor Who in general, this ending was maybe just a tiny bit too farfetched even for that.
I enjoyed the author’s writing style quite a bit; it was easy to follow and flowed very nicely. His descriptions were very detailed and clear, and I was easily able to picture all of the settings and characters in my mind. Richards did a great job of building up an image of a bleak world slightly brightened by the presence of this fair. Yet behind that, he creates an underlying sense of tension and mystery, even before the unexplained deaths actually begin to occur.
The only complaint I had in terms of the writing might simply be caused by differences in location and subsequently dialect for me. Throughout the entire story, every single time the word “around” was used, Richards exchanged that with “round”. This is something that I am accustomed to hearing used in speech, so its use in lines of dialogue felt appropriate. Until this novel, however, I have not seen it employed in regular lines of text, such as in descriptions, and it felt quite out of place in those instances. Frankly, the constant substitution began to feel rather repetitive and awkward. As I said though, this may just be a question of dialect and writing style that I am not entirely familiar with given my location compared to the author.
Richards did a solid job of accurately capturing the personalities of the Eleventh Doctor, Amy, and Rory. Their deliveries of dialogue as well as their interactions with each other were spot on. This was a short novel, so there was not nearly as much time available for the author to flush out the supporting characters. Richards still managed to do a good job of vividly portraying them and their interactions with the main trio. The fact that he worked everything together so well so quickly served to make the novel feel even more reminiscent of an episode of the show.
The main complaint I had in terms of the characters was that I occasionally felt that Amy was acting out of character, and I found that to be a bit frustrating. There were times when she sounded like herself but felt like a different person. A number of times, I questioned why she was acting in certain ways because those actions did not match the true intelligence of her character. Despite that, the characterization in this novel was truly a high point for me.
Overall, this was a very fun and quick read that definitely did the characters and the television series justice. Like the show itself, there is limited time to develop plot and characters in a story of this length, and I liked how much that made it feel like watching an episode. Despite being out of the target age range and not entirely loving the ending, this was still very satisfying and enjoyable to read. This is a story that Whovians of any age will enjoy.