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The Turing Test

By Paul Leonard

Book review by Paul Scoones

If, like me, you consider the name Paul Leonard synonymous with impenetrable prose, wacky aliens and unsatisfyingly directionless plots, his latest novel might pleasantly surprise you.

The Doctor is still wandering through Earth's twentieth century without his TARDIS or his memories. The Turing Test is set during World War Two and sees the Time Lord becoming involved in the exploits of the famous British codebreaker Alan Turing, the novelist and masterspy Graham Greene, and the American writer Joseph Heller. The book's rather cleverly written in the first person from the perspectives of each of these three real-life characters. Viewing the Doctor through their eyes helps immeasurably in conveying the impression of the Time Lord as a mysterious yet charismatic stranger.

The first part of the book, written as Turing, was the most engrossing, and I couldn't help but be reminded of Robert Harris's excellent novel Enigma, which also gives a fictionalised account of Turing's work at Bletchley Park. It's a real wrench for the reader when, just as the plot thickens, the narrative switches to Greene, and later to Heller. Leonard has successfully created quite distinct ‘voices’ for his three narrators, and although I haven't read enough of Greene or Heller's own work to comment on the authenticity of the prose, it's nonetheless very involving.

Perhaps inevitably — given that this after all a Paul Leonard novel — there are strange aliens, but for once they remain in the background for most of the adventure, which is something that the author would be wise to emulate with his next Doctor Who novel.

Don't let the author's name put you off — The Turing Test is a solid, gripping read. [4/5]

This item appeared in TSV 61 (December 2000).

Index nodes: The Turing Test