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Book Review

Book Cover

Doctor Who
Ghosts of India


Author: Mark Morris
BBC Books
RRP: £6.99, US $11.99, Cdn $14.99
ISBN: 978 1 84607 559 9
Available 04 September 2008

India in 1947 is a country in the grip of chaos, torn apart by internal strife. When the Doctor and Donna arrive in Calcutta, they are instantly swept up in violent events. Barely escaping with their lives, they discover that the city is rife with tales of “half-made men”, creatures as white as salt, with only shadows where their eyes should be, who roam the streets at night and steal people away. With help from India’s great spiritual leader, Gandhi, the Doctor and Donna set out to investigate the rumours. What is the real truth behind the “half-made men”? Has an ancient, all-powerful god of destruction really come back to wreak his vengeance upon the Earth...?

At last, the BBC’s hardback novels have caught up with the fact that Donna Noble has become a regular travelling companion of the Doctor! The last batch of books still featured Martha Jones as the Time Lord’s only fellow traveller. Unfortunately, Donna has by now ceased her travels in the television series, following the tragic turn of events in Journey’s End, so the books are still not exactly up to the minute. Never mind, though - if you like the character of Donna, then you should enjoy this book. Author Mark Morris has fun with the lippy lass from Chiswick, whose mouthing off raises a fair few eyebrows among the last bastions of the British Raj.

While there’s much amusement to be had in the time-travellers’ encounters with old-fashioned Brits abroad, including a bluff army major, the author doesn’t shy away from the harsher realities of this turbulent time in Indian history. The conflict between religious factions resulting from the power vacuum left behind as the British pull out of the country is reminiscent of the dilemma currently facing present-day Iraq. Meanwhile, the segregation of India’s low-caste “Untouchables” continues to this day, though Morris inspires a degree of hope as various social orders have to come together to solve the immediate crisis.

This book is something of a “celebrity historical”, to use the term coined by Russell T Davies, featuring as it does Mohandas “Mahatma” Gandhi. The Doctor’s awe at meeting the great spiritual leader might explain why the Time Lord decries violence and military action so strenuously in The Sontaran Stratagem / The Poison Sky and The Doctor’s Daughter, possibly indicating that this adventure is set shortly before those episodes. Certainly it takes place after Planet of the Ood, as Donna recalls her visit to the Ood-Sphere.

Less horrific than Morris’s previous novels, the alien threat in Ghosts of India seems to be over almost as soon as it has been defined, but nevertheless this novel is worth a Gandhi... uh, I mean a gander.


Richard McGinlay

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