The privately funded Parapsychology Department of the University
of East Wessex is conducting experiments into psychic abilities.
One of the students thinks she has heard the voice of a ghost.
The Doctor is more worried about a dimensional disruption
that could threaten the whole of existence...
hadn't been expecting much from this, the third Doctor
Who novel to be penned by former scriptwriter Boucher.
He is much better at writing scripts than novels, and his
last two books have made for stilted and sluggish reading.
But I was pleasantly surprised by this one, which shows considerable
improvement in terms of storytelling.
The familiarity of the Earth setting, as opposed to the alien
worlds visited in Last Man Running and Corpse Marker,
undoubtedly adds to the readability of the work. In common
with this month's other novel, The City of the Dead,
this book deals with paranormal subject matter: black magic
and psychic powers. Telepathic teenagers tune into the appeal
of the horror classic Carrie and suffer from Nightmare
on Elm Street style mental attacks during their sleep.
In scenes reminiscent of Blair Witch 2, the students
and their tutor realise that something has either played tricks
with their minds or altered their videotaped evidence. And
several chilling seance sequences featuring the mismatched
students prove to be real page-turners.
fact, the author spends more time with the students and their
tutor than he does with his usual TARDIS crew of the Fourth
Doctor and Leela, who don't make much of an impact on the
story until its latter half. The Doctor spends rather a long
time incarcerated by over-zealous security guards, while Leela
wanders around on her own.
course, as Leela's creator, Boucher understands the warrior's
character better than any other writer and vividly depicts
her uniquely alien perspective of the campus community. However,
his characterisation of the Doctor is at odds with the eccentric
personality portrayed on TV by Tom Baker. The Doctor becomes
concerned about his mental health when he finds himself babbling
"like an idiot" - as if he didn't normally babble like an
idiot! (Perhaps the Doctor never recovered from this experience
and thus became the complete loony we see in the stories produced
by Graham Williams!...)
Fiction continues that curious trend of Boucher's novels
of echoing the subjects of his scripts for the TV series.
Last Man Running mimicked the jungle-planet setting
of The Face of the Evil. Then Corpse Marker
saw the return of the robots and other characters from The
Robots of Death. Now this book features a supposedly haunted
wood and a sardonic scientist that are both reminiscent of
Boucher's third script, Image of the Fendahl.
conclusion is hampered by some fairly impenetrable technobabble
about time lines and multiverses, yet this remains Boucher's
best book to date.
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