Nut Ink. Mini reviews of texts old and new. No fuss. No plot spoilers. No adverts. Occasional competency.

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Doctor Who: Houdini and the Space Cuckoos (2013)

Author: Joseph Lidster | Page Count: 22

'…the dark metal back wall of the safe had exploded into light.  And beyond that light, a whole new world of metal and circles and machines…'

This is one of a series of Dr Who short stories for younger readers that were given out free on the BBC website.  It employs a clever literary technique whereby the absence of an ancillary companion for the Doctor to converse with is filled by having him invent one.  He talks directly to a creation in his head, which, as it happens, is closely related to what the reader is doing in his/her head.  The result is that it seems as if the Doctor is talking directly to the reader—we become the companion!  The narrative even anticipates and responds to the kind of questions a reader would ask.  Kids’ll love that.  Hell, I loved that!  Good job, Joseph Lidster.

Unfortunately it doesn’t last long and the format soon breaks into a regular hoppity-skippity Doctor adventure.  He’s having trouble with an alien race that’s really good at creating locks.  If the Sonic Screwdriver can’t open it, then what or who can?  Or to put it another way, if you’re a Time Lord who can go to any point in history and meet with any human that ever lived, who would you recruit to open a lock?  (There's no prizes for getting the answer to that question.)

Lidster’s version of the Doctor is faithful to TV version, as is the structure of the story despite being so short.  It would've been challenging to pack in as much as he was able to and still make it feel like it had run its course sufficiently.

It’s difficult to judge the merits of a kid’s story when you’re an adult reader but there’s a conflicting greyness to the situation that might spark debate in a young mind, so I’ll give it bonus points for that.

2½ purple eyes out of 5

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