Friday, November 22, 2013

11th Doctor Book Review - Dan Abnett's The Silent Stars Go By

The Silent Stars Go By by Dan Abnett
Published by: BBC Books
Publication Date: September 29th, 2011
Format: Paperback, 279 Pages
Rating: ★★★★
To Buy

The Doctor has promised to get Rory and Amy home to Leadworth for Christmas. Rory should know by now that, well, there's a strong chance this won't happen. The Doctor does find them a very Christmasy/Christmas-esque, planet. Meaning it's not the planet Earth, but an Earth like planet. At least there are humans though... humans that are scared. Getting quickly separated, The Doctor and Amy are taken to the small settlement and put under arrest, while Rory is the first to encounter the creatures that are terrorizing this small community. The Doctor and his trusty companions are faced with two of their more common problems that can be summed up in one sentence, save the people who don't trust them. So The Doctor vows to help them and his suspicions are soon confirmed... but there are perplexing inconsistencies... what else might be going on here? And can The Doctor ever get Rory home for Christmas... the right one?

My journey with The Doctor has not been the smoothest of rides, but at least it ended on just the right note. The Silent Stars Go By was a quick read that would translate easily to screen and had a wonderful Firefly meets Salem, Massachusetts circa 1692 vibe. While there were things I could nitpick about, instead I will revel in what it nailed. The anticipatory glee that this pre-holiday time of year can bring means that this was a case of right book right time. In this week leading up to Thanksgiving, snow still holds a mystical quality. The big fluffy flakes as they tumble out of the sky have a mesmeric quality. Just last night I watched snow come from the heavens holding my breath to see if the temperature had decreased enough to allow for a little ground covering. I'm not yet at the stage where I wish I had heat vision to melt the snow off my car or am screaming into the wind because it's so cold it's literally making me cry. Dan Abnett caught this elusive and fleeting feeling with his book. He marvelled in the snow with both his Morphan settlers and in Rory's glee to get home for Christmas. There was a childlike wonder that this reverence of the snow captured with this book, a childlike wonder that I think embodies what Doctor Who is all about. Well done Abnett, well done.

With the snow the adversary might be easy to guess, and is really easy to guess if you've seen the non-fiftieth cover. Ice Men... I mean Warriors, Ice Warriors. A lot was made of the Ice Warriors return earlier this year in the episode "Cold War." That episode left me cold... ok, yes, I know, bad bad pun. The redesign of the Warrior itself wasn't the problem, I think that was actually wicked awesome, it was the lack of suspense or any real plot. It was Alien on a sub... so Alien written by Tom Clancy? There's a part of me that so wishes that this book had been the Ice Warriors return to Doctor Who, and not just because I'm a Clara hater... which I am. Abnett was able to capture the menace, yet still show us the multifaceted nature of the Ice Warriors. Oh... just thought of that, the Ice Warriors are like a snowflake, multifaceted, could be good, could be bad, like the first lovely snow fall verses the blizzard that takes out your roof... hmmm, this is something to think more about. But I was seriously almost dancing up and down, if I hadn't been comfortably lounging, because for one of the rare occasions in these books there was a proper use of a monster! Also, near the end, he brings out the big guns and it turns into this Island of Dr. Moreau tribute that made it go above and beyond what I expected and I felt it tied in very well with the show and it's moral questions raised in "The Rebel Flesh."

Yet it wasn't just that Abnett used the monster properly, he also understood how to write the story to introduce the monsters to new readers by also to give little jokes to those who are long time fans. Instead of just being an inside joke of saying, oh, Victoria thought of the name Ice Warriors, instead he adds that Victoria was his friend and fellow time traveller! See what a little qualifying can do? It can make a book work for new and old readers alike! The Doctor's throw away line about having a coat around somewhere would just make sense on it's own, but if you know the ridiculous coat that Patrick Troughton wore when he and Jamie, with the aforementioned Victoria, first met the Ice Warriors... well, a little inside joke that works for both levels of readers. Thank you so much for writing a book that didn't require prior knowledge! I didn't have to spend half my time on Wikipedia.

I have seen some reviews that felt it stagnated at parts, which I can't disagree with, because there's only so many chase scenes you can read. You say run on a tv show, it's a nice little romp. You say run in a book, it's pages and pages of boredom, or at least, partial boredom. But then I'd say the feeling of stagnation is one that came and went as I read all the Doctor Who books for the fiftieth. There are some that are wonderful and some that made me want to cut people. A show like Doctor Who which has been on for fifty years will have times when it's right on and times when it doesn't just miss, it strikes out. Yet, at the end, am I glad I did this challenge? Am I glad I read all these books? Yes I am! I feel more connected to The Doctor then ever before. I think I have a deeper understanding of his universe, and I have to say, our world would be a far far sadder place without him. Oh, and just a heads up authors, stop referencing you old covers in your intros. You got pretty new ones, get over it, signed the Graphic Designing book junkie Miss Eliza.


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