THE DEATH PIT
TIME TRIPS BOOK 1
Publisher: BBC Books/Ebury Publishing
Published: 5 December 2013
On the cover:
Something odd is going on at the Fetch Brothers Golf Spa Hotel. Receptionist Bryony Mailer has noticed a definite tendency towards disappearance amongst the guests. She’s tried talking to the manager, she’s even tried talking to the owner who lives in one of the best cottages in the grounds, but to no avail. And then a tall, loping remarkably energetic guest (wearing a fetching scarf and floppy hat) appears. The Fourth Doctor thinks he’s in Chicago. He knows he’s in 1978. And he also knows that if he doesn’t do something very clever very soon, matters will get very, very out of hand.
I was very excited when I got approved for this on NetGalley. I've only ever read one Doctor Who story in my life. In the Doctor Who Magazine, in 1988 I think. (I may have that issue somewhere still.) My Doctor Who experience started when I watched the Tom Baker episodes on Super Channel back in the late '80s. And despite watching all the New Who, he's still my Doctor in the sense most Brits use that expression. So that this novella starred the Fourth Doctor just made it even better for me. The risk of having the kind of anticipation I did is that you can be disappointed, but fortunately that didn't happen.
When it starts out, it quickly becomes clear what the story's monster is doing. This is a Doctor Who monster story after all. The monster works in a way that I thought was very cool, and it certainly managed to grab my interest right off the bat. It doesn't get lots of development through the story, but that isn't a problem, because that's not really what the story is about.
What is much more central to this story is the characters. There's the Doctor, of course, and he is his jolly old self. (So much so that I wanted to drop everything to rewatch one of the old Tom Baker episodes when I'd finished reading this.) But more important is the person who is really the main character in this story, Bryony Mailer.
Bryony comes off as a strong character straight from the beginning. Her thoughts make her out as something more than the others. But it still feels a bit vague because several characters are introduce d at the beginning. When the Doctor shows up though, things instantly become clearer. And his appearance make it even more clear that Bryony is central to what is going to happen. She's really an interesting character too, and for me she more or less carried this on her own. She's there with the Doctor all the time, and although we go inside the Doctor's head she is very much the centre.
There are a couple of other characters that are in the thick of things, but I don't want to spoil anything by talking too much about them. It suffices to say that they have distinct personalities. They are certainly not given as much depth as Bryony, but in a story this short it simply isn't needed and it would take away from the action.
The storyline is quite full of events. After the introductory pages there is actually some build-up to things kicking off, but when it does it never lets up. This is a story that is written to be read in one go, and it really makes it hard to do anything else either. There's a bit of a mystery surrounding the monster. That is handled well, and the way things are kept back worked perfectly for me.
What there is of action is also splendid. There's no real fighting as such, but anyone who has experience with Doctor Who will recognise the type of action Kennedy gives us. It will come as no surprise that there is some running around, at this stage it feels like it is obligatory for any story of Doctor Who, but it has purpose here and leads us on in the story.
The only thing that I had some problems with was the ending. It felt a bit rushed, a bit too simple after an excellent build up. Not that it was bad, it just didn't feel like it made it quite up to what the story deserved.
All in all though this is a very good standalone Doctor Who story. The storyline is a good one, and the monster is interesting. The Forth Doctor works very well here, and Bryony is a very nice to be acquainted with, and I hope she'll show up later.
This isn't a gamechanger in the Whoniverse, but it is a good addition to it. It will give fans a nice story, and for me it was a great introduction to written Doctor Who - as I am sure it would be for anyone who hasn't read Doctor Who before. It has made me want to check out more of the Doctor's written adventures.
One sentence review: A short and fun adventure for the Fourth Doctor that is lifted by a supporting character that has great potential.
NOTE: I got an e-ARC of this from the publisher/NetGalley.