There is nothing special about Edward Grainger. His life is
much like any other - full of family and friends, love and
passion, incidents and turning points. He travels, works,
laughs and cries. He has parents, a wife, a child, a grandchild.
He lives life to the full. There is nothing special about
Edward Grainger. Except... from the day he was born, until
the day he will die, he keeps meeting the Doctor - sometimes
a different Doctor, sometimes the same Doctor. There is nothing
special about Edward Grainger...
as its springboard the Grainger family depicted in Joseph
Lidster's story She Won't Be Home from the previous
Short Trips anthology The
History of Christmas, this volume focuses on
one particular family member, Edward, and his encounters with
a certain Time Lord over the course of his 100-year lifetime.
Later stories (Childhood Living by Samantha Baker and
Forgotten by Lidster) also deal with Grainger's granddaughter
Linda, who was the main character of She Won't Be Home,
while the first two tales (Lidster's Prologue and Gary
Russell's Echoes) tie in with the appeal of the Eighth
Doctor's audio adventures by featuring members of travelling
companion Charley Pollard's family.
stories are presented in the order in which Grainger experiences
them, though the book could be re-read in Doctor order. Indeed,
the Fourth Doctor's solution to an invertebrate menace in
Stel Pavlou's Checkpoint makes more sense in light
of the First Doctor's actions in the subsequent Childhood
himself is a far from flawless protagonist, particularly during
the learning experiences of the earlier tales. He is an unruly
and obnoxious little boy in Echoes, a tomb robber and
accessory to murder in Steven Savile's Falling from Xi'an,
a snob in Richard Salter's Log 384 and Stephen Hatcher's
Testament, and the would-be assassin of an innocent
woman in Simon Guerrier's Incongruous Details. From
the eve of his 50th birthday in John Davies's Dear John,
halfway through his life and about halfway through the book,
he feels he is old and that his best years have passed. However,
we as readers know, thanks to this book's title, that Grainger
will live to a ripe old age, so perhaps the overall moral
of this anthology is that one should keep looking forward
rather than back and not write oneself off prematurely.
much of his working life Grainger operates as a secret agent.
Therefore, several stories - The Church of Football
by Benjamin Adams, Incongruous Details, Checkpoint,
Childhood Living, The Lost by L. J. Scott, and
Old Boys by James Parsons and Andrew Stirling-Brown
- have a flavour of the espionage thriller about them, even
though they involve aliens.
Other repeated themes are less acceptable and come across
as mere repetition. Many stories have a supernatural aspect
to them: Prologue/Forgotten, First Born by Lizzie
Hopley, and Dear John all depict possession of one
kind or another; Echoes and Dear John feature
ghosts communicating through record players; Falling from
Xi'an deals with animated statues; and Ancient Whispers
by Brian Willis involves ancient magical symbols. As mentioned
above, both Checkpoint and Childhood Living describe
an invasion by alien invertebrates, with a similar solution
to the problem in either case.
spite of the repetition, Forgotten and Childhood
Living are my two favourite stories in this anthology.
In Forgotten, Joseph Lidster takes the reader's assumptions
about his own prologue and ingeniously turns them on their
heads. In Childhood Living, Samantha Baker effectively
compares the viewpoints of two teenagers, Susan Foreman and
Linda Grainger, as their respective grandfathers tackle a
I also enjoyed the timeline-bending Testament, in which
(perhaps a little late in the day) Edward Grainger finally
pieces together the connections that exist between his past
encounters with various Doctors. Ian Mond's Direct Action,
a speculation on the future of historical documentary filmmaking,
also stands out, even though it goes somewhat off-topic by
concentrating on Grainger's father rather than Edward himself.
fact, this is generally a very strong collection, with only
two stories really coming across as weak points. One of these
is Glen McCoy's rather nonsensical Dream Devils. The
other is Falling from Xi'an, which is a decent enough
story, but features a Fifth Doctor who talks more like the
Tenth. I can easily imagine that Steven Savile would really
have liked to write about the Tenth Doctor, Rose and Mickey,
had he been allowed to, rather than the Fifth Doctor, Tegan
one aspect of the new series that has made its way into the
book is the sonic screwdriver, descriptions of which - in
First Born and Checkpoint - seem more like the
new version than the device that the Fourth and Fifth Doctors
would have used.
in all, there is something special about The Centenarian.
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