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The Burning

By Justin Richards

Book review by Paul Scoones

This book pulls off the remarkable feat of simultaneously continuing the series where The Ancestor Cell left off, and ‘rebooting’ the Doctor Who range almost from scratch. The Doctor is stranded on Earth at the end of the nineteenth century without his memory, his TARDIS or his companions. All he knows is that he is due to meet up with Fitz in just over a hundred years (and five books) time.

The Burning is an excellent and highly recommended point of entry for readers new to the novels. I've heard from many fans boggled by the sheer volume of books and plot strands, so here's the opportunity for these people to dive in without getting lost. Seasoned readers should not be put off however — it's a logical progression from the events of the previous novels and does for the Eighth Doctor what the highly-acclaimed Human Nature did for the Seventh.

This is new series editor Justin Richards putting his stamp on the new direction for the novels. The issues relating to Faction Paradox that have permeated many novels stretching back as far as the Seventh Doctor's Christmas on a Rational Planet appear to have been resolved and discarded. The Doctor is once again a free agent.

The story itself is refreshingly uncluttered and straightforward, set in a small English industrial town and peopled with a collection of well-rounded characters. Even the conclusion is relatively run-of-the-mill and the solution to the crisis is sign-posted surprisingly early in the story.

Most memorable is the trick Richards' pulls off with the introduction of the Doctor, deceiving us into believing that one character after another is in fact the Time Lord until at last he appears without warning quite some way into the novel. It's a very clever device that wouldn't work in Doctor Who's other narrative mediums — TV, audio and comic strips.

This is an enjoyable and satisfying novel sure to please both long-term Who readers and newcomers alike. The new adventures of the Eighth Doctor start here. [4/5]

This item appeared in TSV 61 (December 2000).

Index nodes: The Burning