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Book Review

Book Cover

Doctor Who
Beautiful Chaos


Author: Gary Russell
BBC Books
RRP: £6.99, US $11.99, Cdn $14.99
ISBN: 978 1 84607 563 6
Available 26 December 2008

Donna Noble is back home in London, catching up with her family and giving them (well, gramps anyway) all the gossip about her journeys. Her grandfather is especially overjoyed - he’s discovered a new star and had it named after him. He takes the Doctor, as his special guest, to the naming ceremony. But the Doctor is suspicious about some of the other changes he can see in the heavens - particularly another new, bright star. The world’s population is slowly being converted to a new path, a new way of thinking. Something is coming to Earth, an ancient force from the Dark Times, something powerful, angry and all-consuming...

As I noted in my review of The Story of Martha, this latest batch of hardback Who novels is more experimental than usual in terms of the TARDIS crew it depicts. Though the Doctor is currently travelling alone in his television adventures, Gary Russell’s Beautiful Chaos is a flashback to the Time Lord’s days with Donna Noble.

A frame narrative, featuring the Noble family post-Journey’s End, may not at first appear to be entirely necessary, but it does contain some very poignant passages and adds to the main narrative’s overall sense of foreboding regarding Donna’s ultimate fate. Netty, a friend of Donna’s grandfather Wilf who suffers from Alzheimer’s, foreshadows the companion’s tragic loss of memory. Wilf himself and Donna’s mother Sylvia are also well drawn by the author. We see two sides of Sylvia - sympathetic and resentful - and we experience her daughter’s conflicting love and irritation in equal measure.

Aiming to please fans of the old series as well as the new, Russell also throws in the return of the Mandragora Helix. I don’t think I’m giving the game away by revealing this. Though the Helix isn’t mentioned on the back cover blurb, its presence is disclosed in a credit to its creator Louis Marks on the copyright page, before the reader has even got as far as the prologue! The author builds in rationalisations for the Helix’s other appearances in licensed fiction, including the Doctor Who Magazine comic strip The Mark of Mandragora.

There are arguably too many characters in the story, especially to begin with, and the climax comes and goes in a rather understated fashion, but there’s a definite beauty to Beautiful Chaos.


Richard McGinlay

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