BOOK
Doctor Who
The Algebra of Ice

Author: Lloyd Rose
BBC Books
RRP 5.99
ISBN 0 563 48621 X
Available 06 September 2004


A maths nerd, a weird webzine publisher and the Brigadier find themselves helping the Seventh Doctor and Ace to solve the puzzle of a crop circle in the Kentish countryside. Only it's not a circle but a series of square-sided shapes, and it's filled with ice. And it seems to be causing time anomalies...

This is not the first time that Lloyd Rose has written about the Seventh Doctor. This incarnation made a brief appearance in one of the Eighth Doctor's dreams in Rose's debut Doctor Who novel, The City of the Dead.

It is clear that the author has great affection for the Sylvester McCoy era, alluding to several previous adventures. As in Battlefield, the Brigadier makes an appearance, though he could have been put to better use. The Doctor keeps an invader at bay by drawing a circle, thus offering a pseudo-scientific explanation for the power of a similar chalk circle in Battlefield. There are several references to Remembrance of the Daleks, especially the Doctor's destruction of Skaro, though Rose seems to think that the Time Lord destroyed the planet in 1963, thereby altering history (whereas most fans infer from the line, "Entering Skaro time zone," that the Hand of Omega travelled forwards in time to complete its task).

The author's fondness for the Seventh Doctor extends beyond the TV series and into the era of the New Adventures novels. The book is steeped in the mythology of The New Adventures, paying several visits to the Doctor's house on Allen Road and clothing the Time Lord in his elegant white suit (though this novel is set long before David A. McIntee's White Darkness, when the Time Lord started wearing the outfit on a regular basis).

The plot itself bears a passing resemblance to Ben Aaronovitch's Transit. Webzine publisher Adrian Molecross has tracked and correlated the Doctor's involvement with the planet Earth over the years, much as Kadiatu Lethbridge-Stewart does in Transit. In Rose's book, a creature composed of mathematical equations breaks through into our universe, in much the same way that a being from a world of software computations does in Aaronovitch's novel.

Rose's idiosyncratic style remains ever present, uniting a delusional mathematician with a paranormal webmaster. Molecross's unfortunate loss of a hand leads to some moments that are at once gruesome and blackly comical. The villain of the piece, Brett, is a truly nasty piece of work: unhinged and brutally sadistic.

This being the work of an American author, a few Americanisms inevitably slip in, including some errant spellings. For example, "draught" is spelt "draft", and not for the first time in a Who book. It appears as though someone has at least attempted to weed out such US spellings, but unfortunately they went too far when they changed "meters" to "metres" on page 259 - Rose really does mean "meters".

Despite its faults, this is a very involving book that is full of memorable characters and situations.

Richard McGinlay

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