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Book review – “Dead of Winter”

Here in the UK the latest series of DR WHO has just paused half-way through, ending on a “Oh my god!!!” cliffhanger that I won’t spoil for you, in case you’re an overseas reader who hasn’t seen it yet. But I honestly jumped halfway out of my chair when It Happened. I’ll say no more.

Anyway, Who fans (I refuse to call myself a “Whovian”, sorry, it sounds like a new type of Dyson vacuum cleaner, or an(other) unconvincing alien from Star Trek Voyager) are now feeling rather lost, as we wait for TORCHWOOD: MIRACLE DAY to air, and for the Doctor, Amy and (sadly) Rory to return later in the year. What do we do with ourselves now? Well, BBC 3 is soon to begin repeating the previous series of the show, Matt Smith’s first, so that will be a nice treat, but until something new appears onscreen we have to make do with those curiously old-fashined things, you know the ones… lots of pages, made of paper, cover can be hard or soft –

Ah, yes, that’s the ones: books.

Go into any good bookstore and you’ll see LOADSA Dr Who books – novels, reference books, picture books, puzzle books, you name it, it’ll be there. They range from the good (“The Writer’s Tale”, “The Dalek Handbook”) to the I-Can’t-Believe-I-Wasted-My-Money-On-THAT (“Apollo 23” and the uber-disappointing “TARDIS Handbook”), but every now and again a real gem appears, a diamond linting in the darkness. One has just appeared – “Dead of Winter”, a novel by James Goss.

Simply, and without any word of a lie, this was the best Dr Who novel I have ever read. Ever. It just ticks all the boxes. Gripping story? Check. Mysteries and puzzles? Check. Air of unease and menace? Oh yes. Great characters? Got them. Convincing ‘portrayals’ of the TARDIS crew? Absolutely. In fact, the autrhor has got the ‘voices’ of The Doctor, Amy and Rory ansolutely 1,000,000% spot on. Reading their dialogue, and their thoughts, is like being there with them, he has really brought them to life.

“Dead of Winter” is creepy, disturbing, exciting and is definitely one of the greatest Dr Who stories never filmed. I very much doubt it will be, but if it is ever filmed, it will be up there with some of the best episodes we’ve seen.

Seriously, reading this book is like watching a really good episode of the series. The way the author has captured the Doctor and Amy, and the relationship between them, is just perfect, filling in a lot of the gaps that have teased and tormented us over the past couple of years.

But…and boy, it pains me to say this… where it really shines is in bringing Rory to life, and making him a much more rounded, sympathetic and warm character. Now, it’s common knowledge I;m not a huge fan of Rory, I think he’s basically a filler, a gooseberry there to make Amy unavailable to the Doctor and to make her less… well, less Amy, calm her down and stop her being so manic and crazy. Which I’m against, cos she’s a firebrand of a character, has been from the start, and now she’s all domesticated and loved up and…

What? I’m just jealous of Rory? Don’t be absurd…

(cough cough)

Anyway, this book gives voice to Rory’s inner thoughts, doubts and torment, and at the end I have to say, albeit grudgingly, that I felt sorry for him, being piggy in the middle between a wild redhead Scottish girl and a mega-brainy, cosmic Indiana Jones Galifreyan Time Lord. How the hell could any normal guy compete with that? After reading this book I genuinely felt sorry for Rory, and what he has to put up with as the Modern Mickey.

But that’s by the by. In “Dead of Winter” James Goss has written a believable, very enjoyable and very memorable Dr Who story, which I can’t recommend enough. Some bits are better than others, true, and there are some holes in the plot you could fly an X-Wing through, but it’s the characterisation, the dialogue and the joy of the characters’ relationship that lifts this book above the pack. You should definitely give it a go while you sit there, counting the days until The Doctor returns to our screens.

“Dead of Winter”

BBC Books

ISBN: 978-1-849-90238-0



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