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Birthright

by Nigel Robinson

Book review by Felicity Scoones

Nigel Robinson's brief was to include Benny and Ace but not the Doctor. The formula does not sound promising, but in fact the result is one of the most gripping New Adventures to date.

Birthright is Benny's story. Her portrayal as an archaeologist seven centuries displaced from her own time is very realistic. She has the independence of a woman from an egalitarian society without taking on the commando characteristics with which Ace has been imbued. Her attempts to merge in with early twentieth century London and her analytical approach to the situation give her the credibility as an archaeologist which is missing from some of the other New Adventures.

Benny takes the lead role for most of the story. In choosing to give this role to a character who has no life outside the New Adventures, Robinson is taking a risk with audience appeal, but he has a genuine interest in Bernice which he passes on to the reader. Instead of getting yet another view of Ace's personality, we are given a rewarding insight into a previously under-used character. The risk was well worth taking.

Contrastingly, Ace is not very important to the plot at all. She has a job to do and she does it, but she has little impact in the story. It is easy to imagine Birthright without Ace and her role assigned to minor characters. This is perhaps the weakest aspect of the book. However it is a comparatively minor criticism; it in no way spoils the book as a whole.

The Doctor is virtually absent as a character, but his presence pervades the whole book. The effect is interesting in that the plot may not feature the Doctor, but it is definitely a Doctor Who story.

Robinson's strengths are in his excellent characterisation of introduced individuals, and in his depiction of the 1909 setting. As a result the reader has a real empathy for the people of the period which enriches the book. It is here that the novel is most clearly aimed at an adult audience.

The aspects of the book which originate in the future are not so convincing. The whole world seems less real than the few suburbs depicted in 1909. The aliens themselves lack originality and consistency, however they serve their purpose.

I whole-heartedly recommend Birthright. The plot has momentum, the characters are intriguing, and there is real Doctor Who flavour. Read it and see!

This item appeared in TSV 36 (November 1993).

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