Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Review: Time Zero

(Originally posted to the Doctor Who Ratings Guide on 6 November, 2003.)

Reading Time Zero is a bit like that joke about the man who wanted to test his turn signal. First it was working, then it wasn't, then it was, then it wasn't...

The book reads a bit like that. At first, when Justin is setting the scene and we're getting hordes of minor characters trooped through the place just long enough to give their name, rank, and serial number, it's quite off-puttingly dull. Later, as the action picks up and the characters either develop a personality or helpfully die off, it gets quite interesting. Then, as the Doctor and Sabbath debate quantum physics and the nature of reality, it gets eye-glazingly dull again. Then, as George has to decide whether he'll sacrifice his life to save the universe, it gains a certain grandeur... then it's back to debates on quantum physics, but if you can stay awake long enough to keep through that, there's a nice bit at the end.

The regulars are well done, particularly Anji... except that it's quite frustrating that after a whole book of her realizing she's had the time of her life in the TARDIS, that she misses the Doctor and Fitz terribly, and that she thinks of the TARDIS as "home" now... she then abruptly decides she doesn't want to travel any more in the TARDIS, just so that she can then not get her wish again. God, it's as if Tegan had just asked for a lift home from Amsterdam. :)

The prose is at Richards' usual standard; clear, intelligible, and crisp, if not particularly dazzling. (This may sound like damning with faint praise, but I've always felt that the ability to write clear and intelligible prose is one of the most underrated of writing skills. Sure, you want to be witty, but you also want to be understood.) There are some good bits here and there, and certainly nothing actively bad... except, of course, for the Doctor's habit of dropping in huge chunks of Quantum theory for no apparent reason save that people will need to understand it later when it becomes relevant to the plot. We also learn just what the creature from The Burning was, although I still feel that there are a lot of unanswered questions there.

Ultimately, it's another "mythos" book... you should probably read it, and it's got a decent enough plot that you won't walk away disappointed, but it definitely caters to my personal distaste for "hard science". Oh, and the Doctor broke the universe at the end. Gallifrey, reality... my goodness, the Eighth Doctor's clumsy!

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