Doctor Who
The Colony of Lies

Author: Colin Brake
BBC Books
RRP 5.99, US $6.95, Cdn $8.99
ISBN 0 563 48606 X
Available now

The independent Earth colony on Axista 4 was supposed to have been a brave new world, founded by the wealthy humanitarian Stewart Ransom. But a hundred years after landfall, all is not well. Crops are failing, rebels have abandoned Ransom's back-to-basics principles, and a hostile race of dog-like bipeds have reawakened...

Some of you may have read pre-publicity for this book indicating that it features both the Second and the Seventh Doctors. That McCoy incarnation certainly gets around, doesn't he, having only recently shared the limelight with the Sixth Doctor in the Big Finish audio drama Project: Lazarus. But before you get too excited about the prospect of another crossover event, please note that the Seventh Doc only plays a bit part in The Colony of Lies. At first it seems as though his appearance, together with Ace, is a rather pointless framing sequence to what is predominantly a Second Doctor, Jamie and Zoe novel, but his intervention does have an impact on the second half of the book. But I'm not sure it's enough of an impact to justify his inclusion.

Readers with long memories may recall [or you could check out this site's review archive] that I didn't like Brake's first Who novel, Escape Velocity, very much at all. It would appear that a number of other critics agreed with me, as the author admits - with good humour - in his blurb at the back of the book. Fortunately, this volume shows significant improvement in terms of both pace and characterisation. The narrative still seems a little stilted at times, but I found myself caring for the supporting characters much more this time around, and there are plenty of plot strands to keep you interested.

There's an intriguing similarity to the tale of the three little pigs, with the canine Tyrenians standing in for the wolf. The varying durability of the pigs' straw, wood and brick-built dwellings are symbolised respectively by the Wild-West-style wooden constructions of the main Plymouth Hope settlement, the prefab plastic of the rebel Realist camp, and the metal shuttlecrafts of the Earth Colony Support Vessel Hannibal, which arrives on the scene to the relief of some but the fear and annoyance of others. However, on this occasion the victors are not necessarily those with the sturdiest houses.

Meanwhile, the Second Doctor is suitably clumsy and disorganised, Jamie is appropriately heroic and Zoe is the whiz with computers that we all expect her to be.

Colin's Colony probably won't end up lying anywhere near the top of my list of fave Who novels for this year, but it's much more readable than I had expected.

Richard McGinlay

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