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Warlock

By Andrew Cartmel

Book review by Paul Scoones

I'd disliked Warhead (Andrew Cartmel's previous New Adventures novel) and wasn't expecting Warlock to be any better but within minutes of starting to read, my negative preconceptions were dissolving and before long I was thoroughly engrossed in this chunky 359 page dark thriller novel. Andrew Cartmel's writing has clearly matured since his first New Adventure, and although some respects this book is a direct sequel the style is not the William Gibson Cyberpunk pastiche encountered in the pages of Warhead.

The vision of Earth's near future presented in both Cartmel novels is grittier and more violent than any yet encountered in the New Adventures. In this society, humanity is on a downward slide, and drugs are becoming ever more commonplace. Cartmel's characters are as tainted as the world they live in, and no-one is immune to the influence of the new drug called 'Warlock'.

As a novel, this is a top-notch read, sharply paced and full of twists and turns to keep you guessing as to the outcome almost up until the final page. It is utterly gripping and engrossing - but as a Doctor Who story it is deeply flawed.

The TARDIS crew has important but minimal roles to play in this adventure, so anyone looking for deeper insight into Bernice, Ace or especially the Doctor should definitely look elsewhere. The sidelining of the companions I can accept, but to have the Doctor lurking in the background in the same book is a mistake.

Cartmel's seventh Doctor has a strange otherworldly presence, which is an interesting and even appealing view of the character, but is hardly consistent with other New Adventures. This is the 'Dark Doctor', envisioned by Cartmel during his time as script editor on the television series, but taken to extremes.

Ultimately Warlock must be judged on two levels. As a novel it is thrilling and immensely enjoyable; but as a Doctor Who story it deviates from the accepted mythos which some readers may find hard to accept. Above all else, don't be put off by the truly awful and misleading cover.

This item appeared in TSV 43 (March 1995).

Index nodes: Warlock