Doctor Who
The Adventuress of Henrietta Street

Author: Lawrence Miles
BBC Books
RRP 5.99, US $6.95, Cdn $8.99
ISBN 0 563 53842 2
Available now

In 1782, savage ape-like beings from another dimension have begun to materialise on Earth. The Eighth Doctor, cut off from his TARDIS, has formed an unlikely alliance with Scarlette, adventuress and owner of a high-class brothel. As part of his plan to heal the dimensional instability, the Doctor announces his forthcoming marriage...

The author of the controversial Interference is courting controversy once more, with Scarlette and her "family" of harlots placed squarely at the forefront of his complex tale. They are part of this book's "warts and all" depiction of British history, in which the rose-tinted spectacles are most definitely off. As well as aiding the Doctor, prostitutes also play an unwilling role in the invasion of the ape-like babewyns, who cross over via the spiritual "horizon" that is attained by lovers practising tantric sex.

The narrative is steeped in such mysticism, yet also packed with historical commentary, and it is hard to deduce where the fantasy ends and the facts begin. It is boldly asserted, for example, that the British Secret Service had occult origins. However, the discussion of more widely known topics, such as the madness of King George III and the phenomenal expansion of industrial Manchester, helps to make the whole work ring true.

As with Miles' previous books, particularly his Doctor-less New Adventure, Dead Romance, the text employs the format of written records as a story-telling device. Indeed, the entire novel is written as though pieced together from various published or anecdotal accounts, complete with their individual quirks of spelling and punctuation. These various narratives often contain confusing gaps and/or contradictions - this not only adds authenticity but also acts as a cunning get-out clause, allowing the reader to take on board or dismiss whichever controversial ideas he or she likes or dislikes.

As with Dead Romance, theories are put forward about a powerful race that matches the description of the Time Lords, but remains nameless. In the New Adventure such vagueness was largely due to copyright restrictions, but here the primary factor is the Doctor's lingering amnesia regarding the extinction of his own people. Pouring out theories directly from his subconscious mind, the Doctor proposes that since these now semi-legendary beings - once such a crucial presence within the universe - have completely vanished, other creatures, including the babewyns, have been attempting to take their place.

Another, less fortunate, characteristic that this book shares with Dead Romance is the nature of the babewyns themselves. As extra-dimensional creatures that break through into the protagonists' reality, the apes are rather similar to the Sphinxes of Miles' previous work.

This is a densely written novel, in terms of its tiny type as well as the sheer portent and depth of significance of its narrative. These factors make for slow, but rewarding, reading. Though hardly the most carefree of recreational reads, Adventuress is certainly adventurous. Read it and feel clever!

Richard McGinlay

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