Well, due to the hot weather when I was preparing this review, I was still in the mood for an easy-reading “feel good” sci-fi novel. So, I thought that I’d finally take a look at the other “Doctor Who” novel (than this one) that I found in a second-hand bookshop in Petersfield several months earlier. I am, of course, talking about Stephen Cole’s 2006 novel “Doctor Who – The Feast Of The Drowned”.
Although this novel tells a new story that is set during the second series of the modern version of “Doctor Who” (which starred David Tennant and Billie Piper), it can still pretty much be read as a stand-alone novel if you haven’t seen series two of the TV show.
Anyway, let’s take a look at “Doctor Who – The Feast Of The Drowned”. Needless to say, this review may contain some SPOILERS.
The novel begins on board a navy ship called H.M.S Ascendant which has suddenly and mysteriously started sinking in the middle of the North Sea. A sailor from the ship’s stores, Jay Selby, tries to save another sailor called Barker before he is suddenly swept overboard and dragged underwater by something.
In London, Rose Tyler is visiting her friend Keisha after spending a year travelling through time and space with The Doctor. Keisha is in floods of tears, mourning her brother Jay – who has recently been listed as missing in action by the navy. When The Doctor shows up a little while later, he suggests getting fish and chips. But, shortly after he leaves, Jay’s ghost suddenly appears in Keisha’s flat and gives Rose and Keisha a cryptic warning…
One of the first things that I will say about this novel is that it was quite enjoyable to read 🙂 It’s kind of like an extended, high-budget “lost episode” from series two of the show and, best of all, it is also a horror-themed “episode” too 🙂 Since the show is often at it’s very best when it includes a bit of horror, it was great to see this here 🙂
So, I should probably start by talking about this novel’s horror elements. It contains a really good mixture of monster horror, ghost horror, body horror, psychological horror, disaster horror, drowning-based horror, suspense, death-based horror and even a few hints of the zombie genre too 🙂
Although this novel probably won’t be that scary to experienced horror novel readers, these elements certainly add a lot of extra drama and atmosphere to the story. Not to mention that, being a novel rather than a TV show episode, not only do the creatures look a lot more “realistic”, but this book can also include a slightly more intense level of horror than is probably allowed on early-evening television too 🙂
The novel’s monster design is brilliantly inventive and very well thought out too 🙂 The “monster of the week” here is a giant collective of microscopic alien creatures called The Waterhive, who can travel through and manipulate water, can influence people and can also affect everything at the atomic level too.
In addition to turning people into zombie-like creatures, they can also drain the body-water of surrounding people in order to create ghost-like hallucinations that will lure their victim’s loved ones into a watery grave. They can also turn into wonderfully Lovecraftian slime monsters and/or pearl-eyed walking corpses too. Seriously, as “Doctor Who” monsters go, these are one of the creepiest and most formidable that I’ve seen in a while.
Not only that, the monsters are given a realistic motivation for their actions and they also follow a series of “rules” which are used to great effect, which brings me on to the novel’s sci-fi elements. These are excellent as ever, with every “paranormal” event in the story having a scientific explanation which the main characters have to learn about. This focus on solving an ominous scientific mystery also helps to keep the novel fairly compelling too.
Which brings me on to this novel’s thriller elements 🙂 It’s kind of like a fast-paced episode of the TV show, with a really good mixture between suspenseful sneaking, large-scale set-pieces, chilling disaster drama (as London slowly succumbs to The Waterhive’s brainwashing), fast-paced survival drama scenes and even a couple of brief fight scenes too. One of the cool things about novels is that they don’t have the budgetary or practical restrictions that films or TV do and the “special effects” tend to seem a lot more realistic too, and this novel uses this fact to full advantage here 🙂
Plus, another cool thing about this novel is it’s mid-2000s atmosphere too 🙂 This is mostly achieved through a lot of subtle moments – such as mentions of “Disk Doctors” in computer shops, no mentions of social media, comments about fish and chips no longer being wrapped in newspaper etc… and it really helps to add a little bit of nostalgia to the story when it is read today.
In terms of the characters, this novel is fairly good. Although you shouldn’t expect ultra-deep characterisation, there is enough here to make you care about the characters. For the most part, Rose, The Doctor and Mickey also seem fairly close to their TV show counterparts, with the only possible difference being a couple of jokes that seem very mildly “out of character” for The Doctor.
A lot of this novel’s characterisation also comes from the interactions between the characters and this mostly works well. However, there is a vaguely soap-opera style sub-plot involving a past affair between two characters, which almost gets annoying. Thankfully though, every time the novel begins to feel a bit more like “Eastenders” than “Doctor Who”, the arguing characters are usually interrupted by ghosts and/or a zombie pirate 🙂 Did I mention there was a zombie pirate in this novel? 🙂
In terms of the writing, this novel is fairly good 🙂 The novel’s third-person narration is written in a reasonably fast-paced, informal and “matter of fact” style that fits in well with the atmosphere of the TV show, in addition to allowing for a few humourous moments and a very readable story too 🙂 Even so, whilst the novel’s fast-paced narration keeps everything moving at a decent speed, it comes at the slight cost of the extra atmosphere that you get from having more moments of formal/slow narration. Still, this is a small criticism – especially given that the novel’s locations, “special effects” etc… all seem a bit more impressive than those in the TV show.
As for length and pacing, this novel is also really good too 🙂 At an efficient 249 pages in length, this novel never really feels bloated. Likewise, the novel moves at a reasonably similar pace to a good episode of the TV show, with relatively short chapters and a decent amount of of mystery, action, horror and/or drama to keep everything compelling 🙂
All in all, this is a really fun “Doctor Who” novel that is kind of like an extended, high-budget “horror” episode of the TV show 🙂 If you want an enjoyably relaxing and readable sci-fi horror mystery or are just feeling nostalgic about the mid-2000s, then this novel might be worth taking a look at.
If I had to give it a rating out of five, it would get a four.