A former UNIT colleague, Joyce Brunner, contacts the Doctor
regarding strange goings-on at a Scottish convalescent home
called Graystairs, where Joyce's mother is undergoing a radical
new treatment for Alzheimer's disease. Why are both residents
and staff members disappearing? By the time the Seventh Doctor
and Ace arrive, Joyce has vanished too...
the second time in as many Seventh Doctor novels, an old friend
of the Time Lord doesn't recognise him in this incarnation.
In last year's Bullet Time, Sarah Jane Smith failed
to identify him, while in this novel Joyce expects her message
to be received by the Third Doctor, rather than the strange
little man who actually responds. For a time, Joyce wonders
if he is a delusional escapee from Graystairs. Ace has some
fun along similar lines, pretending that the Doctor is her
to the subject of Joyce, might it not have been more effective
to use a character who had actually appeared in a UNIT serial
or two, such as Corporal Bell? I suppose this is a no-win
situation for authors - if an old TV character had
been brought back, then the "we don't like continuity references"
brigade would have been whinging instead.
dating of this story is also problematic with regard to the
UNIT years. This book is set in 1982, and yet the author keeps
stating that Joyce last worked alongside the Third Doctor
mere months ago. Even if you believe that the UNIT stories
were set a few years after their transmission dates (Sarah
claimed that she came from 1980 in Pyramids of Mars),
Joyce can surely not have worked with the Third Doctor for
is an interesting UNIT-related revelation, however. It seems
that the lower-ranking troops have no great love for the Doctor,
and generally hold him responsible for many of their comrades'
from the missing Graystairs residents and staff members, there
are a great number of other enigmas that are interwoven by
the author. For example, near the beginning of the story,
the Doctor transports a mysterious character in the TARDIS
but will not reveal to Ace who this being is. Then there's
the question of Mr Sooal, the reclusive albino owner of Graystairs,
and the eccentric matron Megan. Which, if either, is the secretive
figure with whom the Doctor later makes contact? Which, if
either, is the alien life form that needs fresh supplies of
organic matter to sustain its human disguise? And why is Joyce's
son, Michael, camping out in the local countryside, unbeknownst
to his mother?
and other plot strands truly test the memory of the reader
(or perhaps my own dementia has set in early). It doesn't
help matters that Michalowski makes such frequent scene changes,
which disturb the concentration and make reading tough going
in places. So many strands also require a prolonged tying
up of loose ends before the book concludes. Still, there's
a nice time paradox towards the end, if you like that sort
of thing (which I do).
not the slickest of reads, with so much going on you can be
reasonably assured that there'll always be a good bit coming
up within the next few pages.
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