Review: Doctor Who: The American Adventures by Justin Richards

doctorwhotheamericanadventuresDoctor Who: The American Adventures by Justin Richards

My Rating: 3/5 TARDISes

Series: Standalone

Date Published: October 25th, 2016

Publisher: Penguin Random House (UK)

Pages: 192 pages

Source: Publisher

Links: Goodreads | Amazon | Book Depository

Synopsis: Travel through time and space with the Twelfth Doctor in these six brand new adventures, set in a host of locations across the US and eras from throughout US history.

An invisible spacecraft turns up at the Battle of New Orleans, an alien presence is detected at the 1944 D-Day landings, and ghosts take over New York’s subway tunnels as they’re being dug in the early 1900s…

Filled with mystery, excitement and the Doctor’s trademark wit, these timeywimey stories will delight any Doctor Who fan.


*I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review*

This is a spoiler-free review.

I always love reading any Doctor Who tie-in stories, especially when we are all anxiously waiting for a new season to be released. I have also read a number of Doctor Who novels authored by Justin Richards, and I tend to consistently enjoy his writing style and his depictions of the various Doctors over the years. This is only my second experience with stories written about Peter Capaldi’s Doctor, and I had a fun time reading these short tales of his adventures. While this is targeted at a younger audience, I still feel that this book is something that can be universally enjoyed by Whovians of all ages.

These stories follow the Doctor’s journeys through various notable time periods in American history, as well as in present day America. Because of that, I found it to be a very unique read due to the fact that he is somewhat rarely portrayed traveling through the United States, particularly in the tie-in novels. It was great to see how he insert himself into many historical moments that I grew up learning about.

Though this was not the best collection of stories and I had very mixed feelings about them, I still found them to be solidly written. Creating a compelling story in a very small number of pages is incredibly difficult—it is an entire art in itself. There is not much time to flesh out the plot and the characters. This can make everything feel very rushed, as well as make characters come across as being a little bit flat. I found this to be somewhat true of this collection at times, but overall, I think Richards did a decent job with the length of each text.

Richards’ writing itself was a high point for me. His narration style is very fluid and not at all hard to find yourself getting pulled into. It is wonderful to see these skills in the tie-in stories, as they are generally simple reads, still composed using quality storytelling. I have found—in my personal experience with his work—that Richards’ is also a master at capturing the personality of whichever Doctor he is writing about. Even in this shorter format, it truly feels similar to watching an episode starring the twelfth doctor.

Now, I’ll talk about each individual story and my feelings on them. This will also remain spoiler-free.

All That Glitters (Rating: 3/5)

This story takes place in California, 1849, during the gold rush. Josh Langham is panning for gold in the Sacramento River when finds an odd metallic object. As he begins to pick it up, fatigue overtakes him and he passes out. Suddenly, he begins terrorizing the nearby town and townspeople, breaking in to homes and attacking his people who have all known him as a kind and gentle man. We follow the Doctor as he attempts to figure out what has caused Josh to act in this most unusual way.

I found this story to be just alright. It was a very simple plotline without much action, so it felt a little too slow-paced for my liking. Despite this, it was still intriguing to read, and there was a good amount of mystery. The build-up was a bit too much compared to how the story ultimately ended, but it was a decent read.

Off the Trail (Rating: 3.75/5)

The Doctor finds himself on the Oregon Trail, 1846, in this story. Hattie and her family are traveling the Oregon Trail in a large wagon train when suddenly, they begin to encounter strange noises and unnerving sightings of a creature outside their wagon one night. When they emerge the next morning, they find themselves exactly where they were but completely alone—the other parties in the wagon train have disappeared without a trace. It’s up to the Doctor to rescue the family from a deadly enemy and return them to the missing train.

I liked this story quite a bit—I think that it was my second favorite of the collection. I’ve always enjoyed stories about the Oregon Trail, and this science fiction twist was very captivating. Richards did a good job of building up the suspense to a heart-pounding climax. This story was also one of the more fleshed out ones in terms of both the setting and the characters. Everything was well-described, and I feel that he really utilized his writing talent to create a developed story in a short amount of time. Overall, it didn’t completely blow me away, but it was still a fascinating and unique narrative that I would have loved to see as an actual episode of the show.

Ghosts of New York (Rating: 4.5/5)

Taking place in New York City, 1902, this was by far my favorite of the short stories. This story involves the construction of the New York City subway tunnels, with a nice helping of ghostly activity. Soon after a tunnel roof collapses, killing three workers, a man named Pete begins seeing the ghost of one of his deceased coworkers. Other workers begin to experience this strange paranormal phenomenon as well. Then, of course, the Doctor swoops in, ready to discover the source that is causing these ethereal figures to appear. With many of the other workers too afraid to follow him, only a young man named Tom is brave enough to join in the quest for answers.

I absolutely loved this story. Anything containing ghosts and spookiness is right up my alley. One of the interesting realizations I had while reading this one was that the side character and the Doctor were much more well-developed. This may be due in part to the fact that there is only one sidekick on this particular mission. The only issue I had with the plot was that, when they found the source causing the ghosts to appear, it was not very well explained—I had an extremely hard time picturing it in my head. Nonetheless, this was an absolutely fantastic story and I very much enjoyed it.

Taking the Plunge (Rating: 3/5)

The Doctor comes into the present day in this story that takes place in Florida, 2017. Strolling through a theme park named Adventure World, the Doctor is simply people-watching when he comes across some peculiar occurrences. He meets a family as they first come into the park—two parents and their highly energetic and excited son. They are headed to the popular ride, “Space Plunge”. But when he runs into them again coming back from the ride, they have lost all energy, and look tired and empty. It’s time for the Doctor to inspect “Space Plunge”, and figure out what is sapping the liveliness out of all of its riders.

Though it was not one of my favorites, I still quite enjoyed this story. It was fairly unique and unpredictable in many ways. However, this was one story were the length really was a detriment to the plot. It felt as though not much happened, and that the problem was solved far too easily. This is a story that could have been expanded upon a lot and made into a more complex tale. I think it was just not right for this format, but I still liked aspects of it.

Spectator Sport (Rating: 2.5/5)

Set in New Orleans, 1815, this was unfortunately one of the stories that fell a bit flat for me. The Doctor lands the TARDIS during the Battle of New Orleans, and watches from the sidelines, upset at the idea of humans waging war against each other. All of a sudden, a woman using a perception filter comes rushing up to where he stands on a hill, stating that she has been looking for him all over. She takes him back to what she calls the “safe area”, which turns out to be a ship where people travel back in time in order to watch various battles throughout history.

This story was my least favorite—I found it rather hard to get in to and I did not like the idea of the plot. Not that much really happened, aside from the Doctor reprimanding everyone for getting enjoyment out of the fighting. Of course, there was a bit more depth to the plot other than that, with an assassin being loose on the ship, but this did not take up enough of the story. I could see the potential in this narrative, but is just didn’t reach it.

Base of Operations (Rating: 2.5/5)

Transpiring in the United States, 1944, this story just did not click with me, and unfortunately ended the collection on a slightly sour note. This story is set on an army base during World War II, right before the D-Day landings in Normandy. The TARDIS picks up signs of a rouge transmat system coming from inside the base, and he decides to infiltrate it in order to find the source. Along the way, he encounters some unusual activity, and finds out that not everyone within these walls is who—or what—they appear to be.

I’m not quite sure exactly what it was about this story, but I had a hard time getting into it. I wasn’t particularly interested in most of the characters and the story felt far too rushed. Once again, it was too expansive a topic to try to cover in a story as short as this one. The aliens were sort of interesting, but again, there was not enough time to really connect with the story and understand them. It was not bad by any means, but I just personally didn’t get quite as much enjoyment out of it.

Overall, I am very glad that I had the chance to read these stories. Despite my tepid feelings when it came to parts of it, this book was still great for a Whovian like myself. I also love seeing authors producing stories for a younger generation of fans. All the novels are relatively easy and straightforward reads, but this one is particularly well suited for early readers.

Richards fluidly sweeps readers up into the action-packed adventures and quirky antics of the Doctor, and I think these short stories make the show and the characters widely accessible, and will draw in more of a following that will stay strong through all the coming years of the show.


3.0 TARDISes


Review: Doctor Who: Death Riders by Justin Richards

doctorwhodeathridersDoctor Who: Death Riders by Justin Richards

My Rating: 3.5/5 TARDISes

Series: Standalone

Date Published: November 19th, 2015

Publisher: Penguin Random House UK

Pages: 160 pages

Source: Netgalley

Links: Goodreads | Amazon | Book Depository

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.

3.5 TARDISes