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Remembrance of the Daleks

by Ben Aaronovitch

Book Review by Paul Scoones

Once upon a time I was an avid reader of the Doctor Who novelisations. I'd read each one about five times - especially all those written by Terrence Dicks. Then I started reading a lot of adult science fiction, and it dawned on me just how badly written the Doctor Who books are - especially all those by Terrance Dicks. For the last year or two, my only justification for continuing to collect the titles as they came out in Britain (thanks, David!), is really to keep my collection complete and have a written record of the show. Novels like Planet of Giants and The Space Pirates are hardly worth getting for any other reason.

Then along came Remembrance of the Daleks and I couldn't put it down.

Perhaps the strongest indicator of how good this novel is, is that I read the whole thing without stopping - all 160 pages of close type. The following day I had to read it again, just to make sure I hadn't dreamed it. The thing is, this book is absolutely superb. There is no other way to describe it. It doesn't matter if you liked the TV version of this story or not - read this book and you'll love it.

Ka Faraq Gatri, the bringer of darkness - otherwise known as the Doctor, is a powerful presence who mystifies even Ace. He has "strange, intense eyes" and an air of authority not experienced since the Fourth Doctor. Ace is a young woman haunted by her past and deeply emotionally scarred. Captain Gilmore and Rachel Jensen are equally perplexed by the two time-travellers, and are drawn together fighting the Doctor's archenemies, rekindling the love which they once had for one another.

The Special Weapons Dalek is a poor abused creature ostracised by its own race, but proves its worth in combat. The shuttle commander is a proud leader, who like any military commander is bent on victory... Every character, even down to those unnamed on screen, is given a background and motivation, and even the Daleks are included in this trend. An extraordinary range of flashbacks are included; the rebuilding of Davros, Gilmore and Jensen in WW2, Ace as a 14-year old school girl, Mr Ratcliffe's imprisonment, and most interestingly, the construction and activation of the Hand of Omega on Gallifrey as supervised by Omega, Rassilon and the Other (?).

On the trivia side, thankfully the BBC announcer introducing Doctor Who has gone, as has mention of the French Revolution textbook (which Susan took with her - she didn't leave it in the chemistry lab!) Perhaps the most interesting part of this fascinating volume though are the excerpts from a number of other 'publications', including The Zen Military - A History of UNIT, The Women That Science Forgot and The Children of Davros, a Short History of the Dalek Race. This is a highly effective innovation, as is the labelling of most chapters with the day and the time. The Doctor arrives on a Friday in November 1963 at 3.30pm, and leaves the following Thursday.

As far as I can tell. there is only one error in Aaronovitch's book, and that is the assassination of President Kennedy on Saturday 23 November, when it actually happened on Friday 22. But that's just one line in what I believe to be the best book in the Target Doctor Who series yet - yes, it even surpasses Black Orchid and Fury from the Deep!

I had decided earlier this year that I wasn't going to bother with writing the novelisation of Resurrection of the Daleks after all, but now that Aaronovitch has demonstrated the depth of potential in Dalek novels, my enthusiasm has returned. When it is complete, my novelisation will owe a lot to this book. Now I know how Daleks actually think! I can't wait for Battlefield - Aaronovitch's second novel - if it's anything like the standard of this one, I'll have trouble putting it down!

And just in case you haven't read this brilliant novel, I'll leave you with just a taste of what to expect:

It was Dorothy who stared at the burnt house, the burnt face, the burnt life, the racist graffiti. And it was Dorothy who stared at the words 'Pakis out' on the wall of the playground.
It was Ace who blew away the wall with two and a half kilograms of nitro-nine.
Fireball in the darkness.
Fire fighting fire.

This item appeared in TSV 20 (December 1990).

Index nodes: Remembrance of the Daleks