Doctor Who
The Sleep of Reason

Author: Martin Day
BBC Books
RRP 5.99
ISBN 0 563 48620 1
Available 02 August 2004

Caroline "Laska" Darnell is admitted to a psychiatric hospital following her latest suicide attempt. To her horror, she recognises the place from nightmares about an old building haunted by a ghostly dog. The mysterious Dr Smith is fascinated by Laska's dreams, but can Laska trust the Doctor...?

The wolf-like creature depicted on the cover had me half-expecting a sequel to Jacqueline Rayner's Wolfsbane, but that was not to be. In fact, the creatures described in this novel are far more fearsome. Black Sheep's cover design does little to convey the rotting, bloated, bloodstained horror of Martin Day's creations, which, incidentally, have green, not yellow, glowing eyes.

After a fan-hooking prologue in which a psychiatric patient claims to be an alien time traveller, the first third of the book spends hardly any time at all with the TARDIS crew of the Eighth Doctor, Fitz and Trix. Instead the author focuses on establishing his guest characters, especially the troubled Laska. This is probably a wise move, because he has two sets of characters to introduce.

In addition to the main narrative, set in the Retreat in the present day, a parallel storyline, conveyed via a series of diary entries by a doctor and a priest, tells of events that took place a century ago, when the institution was known as Mausolus House. There is a foreboding sense of history repeating itself as, for instance, dog walkers each lose one of their pets in both the 1903 and 2004 narratives, and, later on, a murder takes place. The structure of the novel is not repetitive or predictable, though. Sometimes the "mirrored" event occurs first in the 1903 segment; on other occasions the 2004 segment takes the lead.

When the Doctor and co finally come to the fore, their previous absence makes their presence all the more effective. The Time Lord in particular, as seen through Laska's eyes, is a powerful and enigmatic - almost frightening - figure. The Eighth Doctor displays a psychoanalytical sixth sense that he has rarely exhibited since his debut in the 1996 TV movie. Thanks to his determined interest in Laska, he teaches the patient to trust other people once again.

To be honest, this is not the most riveting Doctor Who novel I have read this year. However, it is undeniably well written - apart from an over-abundance of last-minute explanations at the end.

It's well worth reading... and if you don't agree, well, then, I fear for your sanity!

Richard McGinlay

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