The Doctor and Martha go in search of a real live dodo, and
are transported by the TARDIS to the mysterious Museum of
the Last Ones. There, in the Earth section, they discover
every extinct creature up to the present day - billions of
them, from the tiniest microbe to the biggest dinosaur - all
still alive and in suspended animation. Preservation is the
museum's only job: collecting the last of every endangered
species from all over the universe. But exhibits are going
missing. Can the Doctor solve the mystery before the curator
adds the last of the Time Lords to her collection...?
you thought the last dodo was the First Doctor's companion
Dodo (Dorothea) Chaplet, think again - though she does get
a name check of sorts in this entertaining novel.
In common with Sting
of the Zygons, this book touches upon the issue
of hunting, tying it in with that of conservation. During
the course of this story, Martha encounters several creatures,
including the eponymous dodo, that have become extinct or
are currently endangered as a result of humanity's activities.
These points are driven home by cameo appearances by a Cruella
de Vil type collector of rare skins and a rhinoceros that
loses its horn (curiously, neither Martha nor the Doctor are
reminded of their recent encounter with the rhino-like Judoon).
Rayner makes use of two interesting and unusual narrative
devices to help tell her story. Almost every chapter includes
a conversational first-person viewpoint from Martha, in a
style of writing similar to that of the character's blog on
MySpace. These cutaways really get into the companion's head.
Each chapter is also followed by a page or two from a guidebook
that Martha consults, The I-Spyder Book of Earth Creatures.
This includes entries for extinct creatures (such as the Quagga,
the Tasmanian Tiger and the Great Auk) and some that are currently
the verge of dying out (like the Mountain Gorilla, the Aye-Aye
and the Chinese Three-Striped Box Turtle), the latter of which
are given fictional dates of "last reported sighting" in the
near future, thus reinforcing the novel's moral message.
Unusually for this series of books, there are no child characters,
though I'm sure the lovable dodo will more than make up for
that in terms of appealing to younger readers.
plot structure is somewhat uneven and episodic, starting off
as a mystery surrounding missing animals, which then gives
way to another calamity and then an even greater one. There's
also a rather too miraculous "TARDIS saves the day" moment
(like the one at the end of Carnival
All in all, though, this lively read couldn't be farther from
being as dead as a dodo.