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White Darkness

by David A McIntee

Book review by Chris Girdler

White Darkness follows the lead of the first two Timewyrm novels as a pseudo-historical. Televised pseudo-historicals such as The King's Demons and The Awakening were decidedly lack-lustre but Terrance Dicks and David McIntee have proven that there is still merit in this direction. It is especially welcome here after a spurt of fast-paced futuristic epics.

Once again, the regulars are treated well. Gone are the days when one companion would follow the Doctor around asking pointless questions whilst the other was locked in a cell with various insignificant characters. Bernice puts her practical skills to the test and gets a nice chunk of action in the middle of the novel. At first, Ace seemed rather out-of-place in this new location, but the events that occur at the climax add a lot to her revised persona. Unfortunately, the Doctor's 'powers' are once again taken too far (he only has to look at a prison guard to escape from a locked cell), but at times his mysterious attributes are well written and it's nice to see a costume change.

The inhabitants of Haiti that the TARDIS crew meets are less interesting, with the exception of Petion. Howard is rather bland and only serves to explain background information or listen to the Doctor. Mortimer is built up as a grim complex character only to end up following Ace's beck and call towards the climax. And if you asked me to distinguish the difference between Richmann, Deitz, Karnstein and Carrefour, I wouldn't have much of an answer. The 'too many characters' syndrome definitely applies to White Darkness.

Some of the novel's themes got a bit lost in the plot as well. I would have liked a larger insight into the characters linked to voodoo: Henri only serves to flick up a predictable (usually 'death') Tarot card. The experimentation on the zombies seemed an interesting idea especially as the central theme at the start of the novel was investigating the bodies they left behind. However, after the climax - and believe me, it's one hell of a climax - the zombies that were resurrected as Mait's plans were put into action, were left standing around pathetically, looking like a plot idea that McIntee forgot about when writing the novel.

I do recommend, however, that you put aside these faults, not to mention a rather slow paced start to the book, because the plot is great. The links from voodoo ceremonies to the Great One's plan are very clever and, as I mentioned before, the climax is exciting and action-packed. The historical details are intricate and with McIntee's fluid style of writing, you become interested in these background facts that add to the plot (unlike some historical stories where you're tempted to skip a couple of pages). Petion is a terrific character and I liked the rapport that he and Ace struck up (adding to the impact of his fate). The dialogue is realistic and Benny is given some charming one-liners which add to an increasingly likable travelling companion for the Doctor.

The historical elements that McIntee studied up on are nicely intertwined into a stylish uncomplicated story. It would have been a great television serial, and although it doesn't reach the heights of Dicks's Timewyrm: Exodus epic, White Darkness is well worth a look.

Book review by David Lawrence

The first thing to be said for White Darkness is that it has a great cover.

After an initially slow start the book suddenly does a funny turn and becomes incredibly exciting as Chapter 5 starts.

In many ways, it's a very traditional Doctor Who tale - companions take it in turns to get into trouble and escape. After originally finding her quite dull, I'm beginning to like Bernice. It's amazing how different a character can be in an appalling book (Transit), and then in a well-written book like this one. Like Lucifer Rising, the characters are textured and come to life on the printed page.

Obviously continuity between the books is a little hard with the current publication rate, but I was disappointed to see no references to the Doctor's killing of Legion in the previous book surely an important event in the Doctor's lives?

I'm finding Ace even less easy to comprehend, sanity-wise; does the end of the book mean that we're going to see Ace trying to deal with her personal conflicts in the books to come? I hope so; I liked her better when she wasn't a ruthless sadistic killer.

Just one question - why are there two Chapter 17's?

This item appeared in TSV 36 (November 1993).

Index nodes: White Darkness