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Vanderdeken's Children

By Christopher Bulis

Book review by Brad Schmidt

After Christopher Bulis' previous output, I haven't come to expect anything magnificent from his work. Almost in homage to that previous work, and as the first author to contribute an adventure to each Doctor and to Bernice, Vanderdeken's Children is a novel that wraps itself up into mediocrity of its own accord.

The plot is clever, but the bland style in which it is presented is not. It ultimately leads to a darker novel, but this is undermined by the fact that I felt compelled to draw a diagram to actually understand it. Few of the characters are largely important; they are simply there for the events of the story to unfold, as two starships from rival systems stand poised over a huge alien derelict. The Doctor and Sam arrive, and in what is possibly the most amazing aspect of the novel, they are both instantly recognisable - and this is no small claim to make for Sam. An expedition is made to discover the origins of the craft, but things aren't quite what they would seem...

This is not exactly a new concept. As usual, Bulis embraces cliché, but not quite so successfully as in The Sorcerer's Apprentice or The Ultimate Treasure. Despite the forced allusion he makes through the explorers, to the discovery of the wreck of the Titanic, I was reminded more of the Michael Crichton novel Sphere - an allusion that is at its strongest when the truth behind the alien symbolism becomes apparent.

Vanderdeken's Children is perhaps aimed at the wrong medium. The novel is trying, and ultimately, I don't feel reimbursed for the energy I invested in reading it. Had this been a television episode however, it would probably have been more successful; particularly as it follows the gloomy style of the TV Movie. Disappointingly average; I foolishly expected more. [3/5]

This item appeared in TSV 55 (October 1998).

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