Doctor Who

Author: Tara Samms
Telos Publishing
RRP 10.00 (standard hardback), 25.00 (deluxe hardback)
ISBN 1 903889 22 7 (standard hardback)
ISBN 1 903889 23 5 (deluxe hardback)
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An old man and his granddaughter land on the planet Iwa, an Earth colony where the genetically "deviant" go to receive "therapy". The travellers find themselves in the middle of a war between the humans and terrifying fox-like bipeds, which are able to attack out of thin air...

This novella marks a return to form that matches the high standards set by Telos's very first work of Doctor Who fiction, Kim Newman's Time and Relative.

Like Newman's book, Frayed is set before the earliest television episode, An Unearthly Child, but Tara Samms reaches back even further into the Time Lord's past than Newman did. Here we see the Doctor adopting his title and Susan inheriting her name for apparently the first time. The Doctor has never encountered humans before and, though they pique his interest, he regards them as animals compared to this own advanced civilisation, an attitude that he still hadn't shaken off by the time of An Unearthly Child. Whenever the narrative switches to his point of view, terms such as "beast" are used to describe the humans, and "cub" to denote their offspring.

The human characters are at least as well realised as the Time Lord. Each of them stands out, especially the stressed-out Co-ordinator Mosely, the aggressive ex-army security guard Cass, the romantic nurse-cum-soldier Juniper, the seedy and cowardly cook Salih, and the shy librarian Webber. One scene in particular helps to define the entire cast of guest characters, as Webber evaluates their personalities in terms of the kinds of books they like to read. Towards the end of the story, you can almost feel Mosely's sanity snapping.

While the Doctor and the colonists face the tangible threat posed by the foxes, Susan finds herself in a nightmarish dream world. There are some truly gruesome scenes of body horror as the inmates of this virtual reality are deprived of mouths and their lips fray into bloody messes. The subject matter of genetic monitoring and manipulation is also touchy and topical. Be 'fraid - be very 'fraid!

The novella's conclusion seems a little contrived, as if the author wasn't entirely sure how to end it, but that is my only real criticism of this gripping book.

Richard McGinlay

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