Doctor Who
Grimm Reality

Authors: Simon Bucher-Jones & Kelly Hale
BBC Books
5.99, US $6.95, Cdn $8.99
ISBN 0 563 53841 4
Available now

The Doctor, Fitz and Anji land on a planet where, due to the proximity of a quantum white hole, the normal physical laws of the universe cease to apply. This is a world upon which gnomes and giants walk, where magic and witchcraft are undeniably real, and where wishes can be granted - at a price...

Uncannily well timed to all but coincide with the release of The Fellowship of the Ring, this novel continues the magical trend established by last month's City of the Dead. This book, however, takes a very different approach.

Intermingling familiar fairy tales, such as Sleeping Beauty and Jack and the Beanstalk, with the works of J.R.R. Tolkien and Lewis Carroll, as well as more obscure fables, the narrative unfolds in a particularly episodic fashion. The planet's various visitors, which comprise the dispersed TARDIS crew and a party of traders who seek to exploit the world for any valuable white hole material they can get their hands on, each become involved in their own series of adventures and mishaps. Only slowly - but surely - is the precise nature of this peculiar realm revealed and a semblance of a cohesive plot gradually takes shape.

Strange objects have fallen from the white hole, and threaten to destabilise local reality. These boxes, or skyfall, are able to reveal myriad versions of reality: the numerous different ways in which the past, present and future could have unfolded or could yet unfold. Glimpsing these infinite possibilities can, and does, drive human minds insane, but what the authors also strive to tell us is that alternative realities are with us every day. These alternatives can be the differences between how an individual sees his or her self and how others perceive that person. This is demonstrated by the conflicting viewpoints of Anji and a captain from the trading party, Christina, either of whom jealously regards the other as being the more attractive.

This is a self-aware text, in which the planet's visitors come to realise how various fairy-tale story-telling conventions can shape the events around them. However, the book is far from pretentious. Much fun is had exposing and exploring such conventions as well as adding modern twists to their archaic style, in a manner similar to the hit movie Shrek. For example, an old-fashioned public notice stuck on to a tree, offering a reward to whosoever may cure one Princess Ebonyblack (a twist on Snow White, geddit?) of her sleeping sickness, concludes with the kind of disclaimers you can find on billboard posters today.

Inventive, witty and eminently readable, there's nothing grim about this Reality.

Richard McGinlay

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