Doctor Who
Camera Obscura

Author: Lloyd Rose
BBC Books
RRP 5.99, US $6.95, Cdn $8.99
ISBN 0 563 53857 0
Available 05 August 2002

Both Sabbath and the Eighth Doctor arrive in Victorian England, having detected temporal instabilities. But whereas the Doctor is content to investigate a miraculous magician and a medium with a split personality, Sabbath and his murderous sidekick are prepared to take more extreme measures...

Lloyd Rose's second Eighth Doctor novel is ever-so-slightly less offbeat than last year's occasionally just-plain-weird The City of the Dead, but it is no less enjoyable for that. Indeed, the book's late 19th-century setting made it all the more accessible for me.

Make no mistake, though, this is still a distinctly stylistic and stylish work. The author vividly describes all of the most evocative aspects of the era, including theatrical magic acts a la The Talons of Weng-Chiang, the marvellous sights and sounds that await Anji and Fitz within the Crystal Palace, as well as the less savoury freak shows and opium dens. As in The City of the Dead, though to a lesser degree, the plot involves a magician whose act is not entirely illusory.

What makes this novel all the more exhilarating for a long-term reader of this series is the heavy involvement of Sabbath. This marks the character's biggest and best role since his debut in Lawrence Miles' The Adventuress of Henrietta Street. Rose captures the duality of Sabbath perfectly. He is analogous to the Doctor - as Time's new champion in a universe without the governance of the Time Lords - yet he and the Doctor are opposed to each other over fundamental principals. Sabbath can be suave and sophisticated, and yet the Doctor regards his notions about Time as being dangerously crude. Several gripping confrontations and barbed comments take place between these two characters. Hopefully this will not be the last time that these two adversaries run into each other - there are still some unanswered questions surrounding Sabbath, including the nature of his mysterious "associates" in Anachrophobia.

This is a story that concerns various degrees of connection and separation: the connections and divisions that exist between the Doctor and Sabbath; the multiple mindsets of a split personality; and the torment of a man splintered into eight separate bodies, each of which possesses the same identity.

This is more magic from Lloyd Rose.

Richard McGinlay

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