With the new series of Doctor Who now over it's back to BBC Books and their Doctor Who novels to keep us entertained until we get to see this year's Christmas Special. For the latest three books the character of Rory has now joined the printed adventures of Doctor and Amy.

Sadly, Gary Russell's The Glamour Chase just doesn't match his last novel for the range, the rather fantastic Beautiful Chaos. It has a lot going for it, undoubtedly, but the sum of its parts left me feeling somewhat unsatisfied. He's clearly aiming to use the plot about shape changing aliens, the Weave, to unpick the aftermath of the First World War and explore the effects of post-traumatic stress disorder on those men that survived it. It's sympathetically achieved but for me it doesn't quite fall into line with the rest of the story.

The alien Weave can grow themselves and their ship, literally knitting themselves into existence, and are being hunted down by their enemies the Tahnn. Their ship crash lands in pre-historic England and it is some thousands of years later that the final battle between the Weave and the Tahnn is initiated when archaeologist Enola Porter unearths the ship. In the intervening centuries the Weave have inculcated themselves into post-First World War England and the majority of the story takes place in 1936. The Doctor, Amy and Rory discover that the village they arrive in is not quite what it seems, particularly the identities of its inhabitants.

Russell - pardon the pun - weaves an interesting tale where you don't quite know who is who and even the Weave are not quite what they seem. For me it's an uneven book but packed with some terrific ideas and he does capture the Doctor, Amy and Rory very well. He perhaps slightly over-exaggerates his version of the Eleventh Doctor and it becomes irritating but I do like the way he gets Amy and Rory firmly involved in the various sub-plots. Rory is seen to be a very caring man, obviously with his background as a nurse, and his concern for the shell-shocked Oliver Marks is written with great sensitivity. I'm not going to discuss the denouement any further because the fun of the book is working out just exactly whose side certain characters are on.

Oli Smith attempts something that'll have you scratching your head a bit in Nuclear Time but that undoubtedly rewards the patient reader with his nifty way of unfolding the story of killer androids and the US military's attempts to destroy them. He eschews linear narrative for a style that, along with a major plot point involving the exploding of a nuclear bomb over the Stepford Wives-like desert village of Appletown, twists the narrative back to front into 'negtative time'. 

The story is revealed in reverse order as the Doctor uses the TARDIS to freeze the explosion and shunt himself backwards in time to prevent the deaths of Amy and Rory and the massacre at a military base as the army rounds up the killer bots to escort them into the desert. It all deliciously untwists itself and at the same time explores the costs of both the Vietnam War and the early 1980s obsession with the Cold War. The military's hunger to enlist scientists to provide them with the ultimate weapon or the ultimate deep cover solution is seen to lead to a dead end as much as Reagan's 'Star Wars' initiative gobbled up billions of dollars in an equally paranoid reaction to the 'evil empire' Russia's escalation in nuclear arms deployment. 

Smith's book riffs on some of the cinematic fantasies of the late 1970s too with the androids and their Appletown home resembling something out of Westworld or Futureworld and the machine intelligences running amok a nod to the likes of The Forbin Project and Demon Seed. Their critiques of technological progress and machine dominance over man are nicely echoed here. He gets the characterisations of the Doctor, Amy and Rory spot on without a hint of Russell's tendency to overwork the eccentricity of the Time Lord in The Glamour Chase. Sadly, Amy and Rory don't feature much at all in the middle of the book with their dilemma only forming the bookends to the tale. There's also an interesting dynamic between Major Geoffrey Redvers and Albert Gilroy which suggests their relationship is more than professional. Albert's a decidedly tragic figure, falling in love with one of his creations and inadvertently causing a massacre as a result. Their humanity adds an emotional context to a story about the uses and misuses of science that ordinarily would have succumbed to literary gimmicks with the time based narrative that loops and then meets itself. It's an interesting concept and if you enjoyed Steven Moffat's time hopping causality antics and the idea of the Doctor unraveling his own past in The Big Bang then this is for you.

If you want a good tale, well told with sympathetic characters then I'd heartily recommend Una McCormack's The King's Dragon. This is a very welcome change of scenery with the Doctor, Amy and Rory journeying to the city-state of Geath, the setting for a high fantasy reading of the Doctor Who format. This is a tale of dragons, magic metal, young kings, wise women and the power of storytelling. Fortunately, we're not talking about a door-stopping David Eddings sized book here and McCormack's prose is crisp and efficient and the book is laced with humour.

The Doctor discovers that Geath is in thrall to the Enamour, a golden metal that can heighten desires and bend the mind. It has turned the inhabitants into selfish, belligerent capitalists where once there existed a peaceful republic. But the Enamour's source is a golden dragon and the dragon is hot property and two forces arrive on Geath to claim it as their own. The Doctor, Amy and Rory are left to decide whether the Enamour and the dragon belong to the scary, dark Regulator or the shining Herald, ancient races still waging a long drawn out war. They call upon the help of a con-man storyteller, a young impressionable king and an old wise woman to work out who the Enamour belongs to and how to rid Geath of its influence.

It's a rollickingly good tale and a breezy read and it's just about edges out Nuclear Time as the most satisfying of the three books in this set. The characters are well defined and I think Amy and Rory are sympathetically re-created. In fact, the Amy in this book is less defensive than her television counterpart and she's actually more likeable for it. I think everyone must like writing for Rory because each of the books gets him spot on and again he's a thoroughly endearing character here. McCormack's version of the Doctor is likewise a little less frenetic than his television counterpart but all the requisite eccentricities are intact. Her supporting characters are attractive too, including the somewhat roguish Teller who sees the error of his ways using his tall stories to boost the young king's popularity rating and the wise woman Hilthe, cautious but willing to give everyone a fair hearing, whose diplomatic skills Rory sees as the solution to their dilemma. There is a lovely thread of political satire in the book too and a witty exploration of monarchy versus republic and a few broadsides at a society obsessed with mass consumption and greed.

The Glamour Chase - Gary Russell (Published 8th July 2010 - Publisher BBC Books/Ebury - ISBN: 978184607988 7)
Nuclear Time - Oli Smith (Published 8th July 2010 - Publisher BBC Books/Ebury - ISBN: 978184607989 4)
The King's Dragon - Una McCormack (Published 8th July 2010 - Publisher BBC Books/Ebury - ISBN: 978184607990 0)

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