the none-too-reliable guidance of the Doctor, the TARDIS materialises
on a planet that appears to be Earth but is inhabited by cavemen,
dinosaurs and decidedly deadly-looking robots...
previous novel in the Eighth Doctor series, Colin Brake's
Escape Velocity, concluded with an amusing virtual
remake of the cliffhanger ending to the first-ever Doctor
Who episode, An Unearthly Child. Accordingly, this
book opens like The Cave of Skulls, with the newly
arrived TARDIS observed by, apparently, a prehistoric human.
The author even has the Doctor (who, thanks to his erratic
memory, is starting out afresh as an interplanetary adventurer)
collecting soil samples in an attempt to deduce his location,
just like Hartnell's Doctor did back in 1963. And just like
Ian and Barbara, the Doctor's unwilling new companion Anji
is desperate to get back to her own time.
portions of the narrative convey the often whimsical and always
engaging perspective of Anji, whose exasperation at her fellow
travellers, the Doctor and Fitz, and her desperation in the
face of a bizarre new world of experiences, give way to a
practicality that enables her to stay sane. She also has to
come to terms with the loss of her boyfriend, Dave, the memory
of whom she keeps pushing to the back of her mind. This makes
for an interesting variation on the Doctor's mental state
- his subconscious denial of the fate of his home planet.
issues of memory are at the core of the story, particularly
with regard to false memories. This is especially pertinent
to the character of Fitz - or rather, to the being who thinks
of himself as Fitz, but who is painfully reminded by the course
of events that he is actually a replica programmed with the
memories of the original. Rayner acknowledges the influence
of SF writer Philip K Dick when Anji makes mention of Blade
Runner (in which androids are similarly programmed with
memories, rendering them almost indistinguishable from human
also more than a little of WestWorld in this book,
as its title suggests, but on a grander scale. The author
lightens the tone of her own deadly theme park by showing
its reconstructions of Earth history to be humorously inaccurate.
With several different historical zones to explore, the plot
(rather like that of The War Games, and for similar
reasons) is a distinctly runaround romp - but an enjoyable
romp at that.