Doctor Who
Trading Futures

Author: Lance Parkin
BBC Books
RRP 5.99, US $6.95, Cdn $8.99
ISBN 0 563 53848 1
Available now

The Doctor, Anji and Fitz go undercover to investigate time displacement on 21st-century Earth. Someone is offering to sell time-travel technology from the distant future. The Europeans want it, as do the Americans. So does a group of super-intelligent rhinoceros-like aliens. But agents from the future will stop at nothing to prevent history being changed...

Rather disappointingly, the beginning of this novel is not a direct continuation of the cliffhanger ending to last month's Anachrophobia (although the story once again concerns time travel, and the distant presence of Sabbath can still be felt). Instead we find the Doctor fully recovered from his battle with the clock-faced people, and already engaged in a 007-style parachute stunt as part of his investigations on Earth.

The action sequences, the character names - including Malady Chang, Penny Lik and an ex-CIA agent called Felix - and cheeky name checks of various titles all allude to the James Bond series of novels and movies. An ageing British agent with a Scots accent is clearly modelled upon Sean Connery. This is, of course, not the first time that Who novelists have adopted the 007 style - think of Peter Anghelides' Frontier Worlds or the majority of David A. McIntee's books. But the 007 style is only part of the appeal of this novel (admittedly a very large part). Bond never gave us space-faring would-be time-travelling alien rhinos!

This is a narrative that doesn't take itself too seriously, a factor that is also evident in its depiction of the world approximately ten years from now. The future presented by Parkin is a logical, though somewhat satirical, extrapolation of current political scenarios. The UK is led by a President Minister and is part of a combined Eurozone bloc. But some factions within Great Britain still feel that the United States would be a more useful ally.

The sense of Parkin's plot is elusive at first. Such complexities are to be expected in an espionage thriller, but I never did manage to work out how the Doctor obtained his first lead and located the briefcase that features in the first chapter. Had this been the Seventh Doctor, then we could have taken for granted the fact that the Time Lord knew something we didn't, but this is the more fallible Eighth Doctor.

Stick with this book, though, for the story soon escalates towards a breathless finale. As long as there are novels like this, the Doctor's tomorrows will never die.

Richard McGinlay


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