When Anji returns to her own time and Fitz embarks upon a
palaeontology expedition to Siberia in the 19th century, the
Eighth Doctor is left to travel alone once again. However,
experiments with time and the repercussions of Fitz's apparently
doomed expedition bring the Doctor and Anji back together...
structure of this novel, which is the first in a new arc of
stories for the Eighth Doctor range, is both unusual and fascinating.
TARDIS crew is quickly dispersed, and the majority of the
book reads like a reunion story, despite the fact that the
trio were together just a month ago in Camera Obscura
(in which the two human companions decided to go their separate
ways). The impression of a lengthy separation is given by
the fact that approximately two years pass for Anji before
she crosses paths with the Doctor once again. This passage
of time also cleverly allows the companion to remain an up-to-date
contemporary of the reader. It is also implied that an undisclosed
number of years have passed for the Doctor.
narrative switches rapidly between a variety of times and
places, each one as intriguing as the others. The various
sub-plots involve clashing personalities and carnivorous monsters
faced by Fitz in Siberia, 1894; espionage and daredevil situations
for the Doctor and Anji in present-day England and Russia;
and experiments with time and black holes. Bond films and
other action movies are alluded to in the desperate measures
that are taken by Anji on board a private plane. Meanwhile
the Doctor engages in more subtle 007-style antics in an auction
room scene inspired by the short story Property of a Lady
and/or the movie Octopussy. Anji's involvement in events
appears to be an unlikely coincidence at first, but proves
to have an entirely logical connection.
Richards' intelligent tale deals on various levels with the
brain-straining concepts of quantum theory. He mostly succeeds
in making the science accessible, but I must confess to being
a bit befuddled at times! More successful is his use of the
theoretical principles on a thematic level. Just as it is
impossible to determine whether Erwin Schrödinger's famous
cat is alive or not until its box has been opened, so the
Doctor refuses to accept that Fitz might be dead until he
has witnessed the facts first-hand. The author also proposes
that quantum theory might explain why the Doctor's travels
through time don't ordinarily cause the universe to divide
into alternate timelines or realities.
Zero marks a bold beginning for a promising new era of
Eighth Doctor novels.
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