SALT OF THE EARTH
TIME TRIPS BOOK 4
Publisher: BBC Books/Ebury Publishing
Published: 6 March 2014
On the cover:
(From the publisher's website.)
The Third Doctor and Jo Grant arrive for a well-deserved holiday of sun and ‘blokarting’ on a salt lake in Australia in 2028. Weird sculptures adorn the landscape – statues carved from the salt. People have been leaving them in the salt lakes for years – but these look different. Grotesque, distorted figures twisted in pain. They don’t last long in the rain and the wind, but they’re just made of salt... Aren’t they?
Canavan does not waste her time, you are given a very powerful opening. It's chilling, and it gets to you. It also introduces us to a non-human supporting character that is perhaps the best thing about this story. It's definitely a bit of a strange story, it has both a very limited cast, and a very limited setting. I am not really familiar with the Third Doctor, but have gathered that this is somewhat of a signature for this regeneration. Or at least that the limitation to an Earth setting is.
As an introduction to an incarnation I have only read about, this worked very well though. Canavan fleshes out what I have previously just read about, and makes it come to life. It is also interesting to see how the companion, Jo, definitely belongs to the time she originally comes from. Sure, there are updates to the technology based on what has come since then and it is set in our future, but this still feels like somewhat of a period piece. It gives off the vibe of the period when he third Doctor was on the TV screens.
I said it was a bit of a strange story, and it is. It's actually quite hard to place this story in any conventional storytype, but it will be somewhat familiar to Doctor Who fans. This isn't one of the action filled Doctor stories, but we do get a bit of running. The lack of action doesn't hamper the story though, and it would feel wrong if some was shoehorned in.
There is some tension as the story progresses, and a feeling of real peril. It does move fast though, everything happens within the same day. The limited time does somewhat detract from any great suspense to what is happening. When the length of the story is this short, both in pages and narrative time, it doesn't provide much space for a slow build, and I felt it could have needed more of that.
It is not that this is a bad story in any way, but it is a bit unfulfilling. Even though it is well told it does feel a bit too pared down to the bones, and I would have liked a bit more meat on it. That said, this is a very typical Doctor Who story in the sense that it feels a little bit rushed, and that things are resolved perhaps a little bit too quickly towards the end.
Overall this is a good story. It excels in creating a feeling of being at the setting, and time period of Jo/the Third Doctor. and for me it is an interesting look at an unfamiliar incarnation of the Doctor. As mentioned above, the end left a little bit to be desired. But that is pretty much usual when it comes to a lot of Doctor Who (, for me at least).
If you want a short and straightforward Doctor story, this is a very good choice. And for those that miss the Third Doctor and Jo Grant this will be welcome. As a quick introduction to the Third Doctor, I found this very interesting and it makes me want to experience more of his adventures.
NOTE: I got an e-ARC of this from the publisher/NetGalley.
REVIEWS: The Death Pit (Time Trips 1) Into the Nowhere (Time Trips 2) Keeping Up with the Joneses (Time Trips 3)