An old man and his granddaughter land on the planet Iwa, an
Earth colony where the genetically "deviant" go to receive
"therapy". The travellers find themselves in the middle of
a war between the humans and terrifying fox-like bipeds, which
are able to attack out of thin air...
This novella marks a return to form that matches the high
standards set by Telos's very first work of Doctor Who
fiction, Kim Newman's Time and Relative.
Newman's book, Frayed is set before the earliest television
episode, An Unearthly Child, but Tara Samms reaches
back even further into the Time Lord's past than Newman did.
Here we see the Doctor adopting his title and Susan inheriting
her name for apparently the first time. The Doctor has never
encountered humans before and, though they pique his interest,
he regards them as animals compared to this own advanced civilisation,
an attitude that he still hadn't shaken off by the time of
An Unearthly Child. Whenever the narrative switches
to his point of view, terms such as "beast" are used to describe
the humans, and "cub" to denote their offspring.
human characters are at least as well realised as the Time
Lord. Each of them stands out, especially the stressed-out
Co-ordinator Mosely, the aggressive ex-army security guard
Cass, the romantic nurse-cum-soldier Juniper, the seedy and
cowardly cook Salih, and the shy librarian Webber. One scene
in particular helps to define the entire cast of guest characters,
as Webber evaluates their personalities in terms of the kinds
of books they like to read. Towards the end of the story,
you can almost feel Mosely's sanity snapping.
While the Doctor and the colonists face the tangible threat
posed by the foxes, Susan finds herself in a nightmarish dream
world. There are some truly gruesome scenes of body horror
as the inmates of this virtual reality are deprived of mouths
and their lips fray into bloody messes. The subject matter
of genetic monitoring and manipulation is also touchy and
topical. Be 'fraid - be very 'fraid!
novella's conclusion seems a little contrived, as if the author
wasn't entirely sure how to end it, but that is my only real
criticism of this gripping book.
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