Bernice Summerfield is 21 years old and living hand to mouth
and drink to drink. Offered a job beyond her qualifications,
she is lured to the backwater world of Jaiwan where nothing
has ever happened - ever. There she joins a disparate team
of archaeologists who have just discovered that the planet
might be a tad more interesting than people thought. This
could be Benny's big break and her ticket to a proper career
in archaeology. That's if archaeology doesn't kill her first...
had Young Sherlock Holmes, Young Indiana Jones and
even Young Bond. Now Big Finish brings us a younger
version of Bernice Summerfield. This book is set nine years
before Benny's first meeting with the Doctor in 2570 in the
Doctor Who: The New Adventures novel Love and War.
certainly a neat way to avoid all the baggage that the character
has accumulated over the years, both emotionally and in terms
of series continuity. There's no Jason Kane or Braxiatel Collection
here. Having said that, Ben Aaronovitch, in his first full-length
novel for ten years, throws in plenty of passing references
to things that fans of Benny and the Doctor will recognise,
such as Martians (i.e. the Ice Warriors), the Dragon War (Earth's
conflict with the Draconians) and the planet Heaven (the setting
of Love and War).
the course of the narrative, we see how young Benny is gradually
developing into the older character that we know so well.
She inherits a diary from a professor who is a mentor figure
to her (in fact, I kept thinking "the Professor" was
Bernice, forgetting that she hasn't yet adopted that title).
Benny's respect for Martian customs and her love of 21st-century
Earth culture are both already evident, though there are noticeable
gaps in her historical knowledge. For example, she doesn't
know who Machiavelli or Yoda were, nor the origin of the verb
Certain characters' incorrect assumptions about the etymology
of such terms also tie in with one of the book's themes: that
historical and archaeological studies can paint a misleading
or incomplete picture of the past.
the planet Jaiwan, Aaronovitch has created a convincingly
alien world, but one that it's still possible to relate to,
thanks to the human colonists giving the local flora and fauna
familiar-sounding names, like kwumtree, potfish and potfish
spider. The potfish is an aquatic creature that grows up in
dens attached kwumtree roots, while the potfish spider is
a terrifying predator (as depicted on the cover) that lives
in abandoned potfish dens.
first third of the book is rich with zoological and archaeological
detail, not to mention characterisation, but is rather slow
in the plot and suspense departments - so much so that I almost
felt like giving up. There are also rather a lot of spelling
and grammatical errors, such as "its" instead of "it's", "ally"
when the author means "alley", "an" before a word beginning
with a consonant, and "who" instead of "which" or "that".
It's worth sticking with it, though, because after that the
pace and intrigue improve enormously. The middle section is
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