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City of Death

by David Lawrence (TSV Books)

Book review by Leigh Hendry

City of Death is a story that ranks high among my all-time favourites. Ever since first seeing it on television, and now watching it frequently on video, I have been impressed with the fast pace, the intricate and complex storyline and the visuals.

So it was with high hopes (and some inward trepidation) that I approached reading the story in print. Would it really be able to capture all the elements of the on-screen story?

I'm happy to say that, in my opinion, this well-written book by David Lawrence definitely does the story credit.

Right from the beginning, when we are shown Earth before any life exists and the inevitable destruction of the Jagaroth ship, all seen through the eyes (eye?) of Scaroth, right through to the end of the book, with the irreverent humour of the Fourth Doctor as the time travellers bid farewell to Duggan, the book captures what I think of as the essence of Doctor Who. The complex yet easy to follow storyline (compared with Ghost Light, what wouldn't be?), the humour of the Doctor, the interesting characters (both good and evil, and all the incidental ones such as the two art critics inspecting the TARDIS), all serve to hold viewer (and reader) interest.

I was particularly pleased to see that where David Lawrence's story varies from what is shown on screen, the additions do not interfere with the story, but actually enhance it. One thing that I do find annoying in novelisations is when the storyline changes dramatically from what has been shown on TV, for no apparent reason. This is not the case in City of Death. Instead, the extra parts in the book add to the story, for instance we read of Romana finding a file in the Gallifrey Archives on Jagaroth, and the Doctor learning of the Jagaroth from K'Anpo. It all serves to make the story well-rounded and complete.

Apart from the faithfulness to the original storyline, David Lawrence's book is also to be commended for the actual style of writing. It is crisp, with no superfluous words, exclamation marks, etc. Every description in the book immediately brought the story as seen on the screen to mind - even the Doctor was brought to life (which many writers of the novels seem to find difficult, or at least never seem to get quite right). Apart from the unfortunate French grammar and spelling, there is nothing that can be faulted in this excellent book, except for the fact that it seemed to finish all too quickly - one of those books that you wished could keep on going.

Definitely well worth the minimal purchase price and a worthy addition to the Doctor Who novelisations.

This item appeared in TSV 33 (April 1993).

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