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Transit

by Ben Aaronovitch

Book review by Paul Scoones

My favourite Doctor Who novelisation has to be Ben Aaronovitch's Remembrance of the Daleks. For this reason, I had very high expectations of his second Doctor Who book and I'm sad to say that I was most disappointed.

My main criticism of Transit is that the characters are all distinctly unlikeable. After Love and War I was looking forward to reading an adventure with the Doctor and Bernice. Instead it's the Doctor and Kadiatu - Benny is absent for most of the book and when she does appear more often than not she is in the grip of an evil intelligence. This seems to me to have been a very obvious way of avoiding using a newly introduced character about whom the writer presumably knew next to nothing. This sort of thing is likely to become an even greater problem with the books now shifting to a monthly schedule.

Kadiatu Lethbridge-Stewart, great granddaughter of the Brigadier, takes centre-stage as the Doctor's companion for the duration of Transit. She has been set up as an optional returning guest companion for New Adventures authors to use, but such is the bland, uninteresting nature of her character that I find it hard to envision any writer wanting to bring her back. Her ancestry is not exactly easy to trace - we learn that she is named after a relative, the historian Kadiatu of the Remembrance novel. There also appears to be a third, even earlier Kadiatu in her family. The story of how the Brigadier fits into all this takes some swallowing.

If Kadiatu comes across as dull, then the Doctor is even more so. By intention or otherwise, Aaronovitch depicts a Time Lord who is singularly disinterested in everything going on around him. He wanders through most of the adventure (stopping along the way to get drunk!), without much sign of compassion or a willingness to get involved. Most inexcusable is his attitude towards Bernice, whose fate he appears to care little about for the first half of the book.

If a comparison can be drawn within The New Adventures series, then this book is most similar to Andrew Cartmel's Cat's Cradle: Warhead in its depiction of a technology-dependent decaying and sleazy future Earth society. Indeed there are direct links with Warhead to indicate that Transit is merely set at a later time within the same universe. There are mentions of the Butler Institute, and a sequence remarkably similar to Cartmel's in which the Doctor, Kadiatu and her boyfriend visit the Doctor's house.

Again, like Warhead, there is some rather openly described sex, though in my opinion it is tastefully written in Transit. I had read some pages beyond a scene in which two characters make love before it even occurred to me that it had appeared in a Doctor Who book. Unlike Timewyrm: Genesys, sex does not appear to have been added simply for the sake of it.

What did, however, was the use of the word 'fuck' - not once or twice, but many, many times, to the point where it became just boring and rather jarring. Aaronovitch uses many imaginative words - some his own creation - so much so that a glossary is provided, but it seems rather a shame that he has not thought to create a future equivalent for this word.

Although I found the book exceedingly difficult to read, mainly because it did not hold my attention for more than a few pages at a time, there were a few bits I particularly enjoyed. The prologue, if a little out of place with the rest of the book, was neat; the snippets of Ice Warrior culture were fascinating, and I loved the bit where the Doctor finds himself watching an operatic version of Battlefield! Overall, these and a few other gems sadly feel well short of rescuing the book from sheer boredom.

The dedication suggests that the writer's honeymoon was delayed whilst he finished Transit, and I am inclined to believe that this factor led him to rush the task. Contrary to earlier reports, the Destroyer does not appear. Look out for the error in the list of titles on the second page.

I really wanted to like this book, and made myself read it from cover to cover twice so that I could be absolutely sure of my opinions before writing this. The fact that I found it extremely difficult to concentrate on it on both occasions merely affirmed my belief that Ben Aaronovitch has failed to produce what, above all else, needs to be an entertaining and enjoyable reading experience.

This item appeared in TSV 32 (February 1993).

Index nodes: Transit