BOOK
Doctor Who
The Book of the Still

Author: Paul Ebbs
BBC Books
RRP 5.99, US $6.95, Cdn $8.99
ISBN 0 563 53851 1
Available now


The Book of the Still exists throughout time, a tome that can prove invaluable to stranded time travellers, who can write a message within its pages in the hope of being rescued. The Book currently resides in a museum on the planet Lebenswelt, where various parties seek to steal it, others are imprisoned having failed to steal it, and others still would kill to prevent its secrets from ever being discovered. Meanwhile, Fitz himself has been stolen...

Be warned: The Book of the Still is a complex novel. The author has combined a huge variety of plot strands and character motivations, not all of which seem to make much sense until fairly late in the day. On at least two occasions, we are deliberately misled and ultimately surprised by the identity of a familiar character that a particular chapter focuses on in an unusual way. The strange behaviours exhibited by several characters are not explained until the closing chapters - and I'm still not entirely convinced by the explanation for some of the Eighth Doctor's odd antics.

There are many enjoyable scenes, including some bitchiness between Anji and another woman, Rhian Salmond, who accompanies the Doctor through most of the narrative. The concept behind the planet Lebenswelt is also an amusing and convincing one - this is a world with a phenomenally wealthy population, but it is also a decidedly grotty and grimy place, because none of the populace will deign to sweep the streets or maintain the sewers! All in all, though, it is hard to get to grips with the first half of this book.

Things soon pick up after that point, however, when a fascinating, sinister and truly revolting race of aliens arrives upon the scene. Then the various plot elements and complex character inter-relationships are flung together, often with dramatic and/or tragic consequences. One scene in particular, which takes place on a dance floor upon which virtually all of the characters mingle but are then immediately dispersed, is ingeniously engineered by Ebbs.

The Book of the Still boasts a stunning (though mind-bending) conclusion. It's just a pity that the reader's patience has to be so sorely tested before being rewarded.

Richard McGinlay

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