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Human Nature

By Paul Cornell

Book review by Nicholas Withers

I was not looking forward to Human Nature after the mediocre No Future and plain awful Goth Opera. All my preconceptions, however, were blown away after only a few pages and I was avidly hooked into a very good read. Human Nature is interesting in the way it takes the typical New Adventure story - the Doctor and companion are split up from each other, alien attack, etc - and reshapes it into a story more about the characters.

It is in all the characters which Human Nature shines, from the brilliantly human Dr John Smith through to Benny and the nasty aliens. Even the background characters have that expensive BBC period drama feel to them, and not the light cardboard feel usually conveyed in Doctor Who. This results in a quite strange situation in a New Adventure: emotion. We have finished with the in-your-face moodiness of Ace, but in Human Nature there are some very touching moments, mostly involving Dr John Smith.

Human Nature also sees Paul Cornell offering explanations for some of the linking features of his previous New Adventure novels. As with Andrew Cartmel's War series I think that the New Adventures benefit from the introduction of such recurring ideas.

The only main problem I have with Human Nature is the wrap-up after the conclusion. When all is said and done there is a distinct feeling that nothing has really changed, and that the entire incident has had no real result. However, apart from this minor complaint this easily sits next to Cornell's first two books near the top of the scale: read this book.

Book review by Matthew Dentith

When I heard about this book. I couldn't wait to get my hands on a copy. Now I wish I hadn't.

Human Nature's exciting blurb about a future Doctor and Doctor John Smith makes good reading. Unfortunately, the rest of the book doesn't. The future Doctor, a three page waste, is unnecessary to the plot, and only serves to show what the book could have been like, with a more mysterious air of Who's Who. We are soon given the usual 'run away from the enemies and reveal the future to close friends' routine that seems to pervade the Doctor Who mythos, and gets more predictable each time, right down to the bomb that turns objects to glass (seen so many times in comic strips).

The enemies, the Aubertides, are original, and very human in their support of the internal hierarchy. That is what ruined them for me, they were so human that I couldn't see them as alien. Which leads to the key part of the book, the impact of Doctor John Smith's experiences on the Doctor. Does the Doctor learn anything from John? Well, read the book and find out, and you'll be as displeased as I was.

But the book does have a high point. One high point. In a one-paragraph reference a character shows that Time Lords are not just old men in high collars. But to wade through an entire book to enjoy that one moment is displeasing. It gets two aardvarks out of ten for this one high point.

This item appeared in TSV 45 (September 1995).

Index nodes: Human Nature