Doctor Who
The Suns of Caresh

Author: Paul Saint
BBC Books
RRP 5.99, US $6.95, Cdn $8.99
ISBN 0 563 53858 9
Available now

The Third Doctor is persuaded by the infuriating Time Lady Solenti to investigate the disappearance of her associate, Lord Roche. Meanwhile, in Bognor Regis, 1999, a young woman with unnaturally large eyes and unusually short hair would also like to locate Roche, but can't remember why. All she knows is that there aren't enough suns in the sky, and the sea doesn't smell quite right...

I would have thought that the Doctor Who universe was already over-populated with meddling and/or renegade Time Lords. However, Lady Solenti, a blind Gallifreyan who shares a telepathic rapport with her guide dog, Jess, is a memorable enough addition to the mythology. The unscrupulous and decidedly callous Lord Roche makes less of an impression, although the presence of both of these characters gives rise to some neat TARDIS-related ideas.

Due to Solenti's intervention, the Doctor's ship spectacularly crash-lands, carving a path of destruction in its semi-materialised state, because it is not correctly synchronised with the Earth's rotation. Meanwhile, Solenti's and Roche's own vessels boast an intriguing new gimmick: an atrium circuit, which can extend a TARDIS's disguise well beyond its basic shell in order to blend in more effectively with its surroundings.

There's also a petrified stone TARDIS, which lies at one end of a complex time fracture, although this is territory that has been covered before, in both The Ancestor Cell and the Missing Adventure, Cold Fusion. The fracture itself is an unnecessary complication that the book could have done without. The anomaly is set up as being a major plot element, but in the end comes to very little, and is rather unconvincingly rationalised away.

Never mind, though, because the main appeal of Saint's novel lies in its instantly accessible characters and its tangible sense of place. I empathised particularly with the characters of Troy Game, a displaced alien, and Simon Haldane, the science-fiction fan who looks after her. I don't usually find myself caring about the supporting characters as much I do about the series regulars, but this book is an exception to the rule. In this respect, Suns is a shining example.

Richard McGinlay

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