THIS STORY TAKES
PLACE BETWEEN THE
NOVELS "ALIEN BODIES"
AND "OPTION LOCK."
OFFICIAL BBC 'EIGHTH
RELEASED IN JANUARY
Kursaal is a pleasure
world, a huge theme
park for the Cronus
System - or rather
it will be if it isn't
the project halted
to preserve the last
remains of the long-
dead Jax, an ancient
wolf-like race whose
remains are being
buried beneath the
Cut off from the
from his companion
and pursued for
murder, the Doctor
hides a terrible
secret - and that
Sam is being affected
by events more than
anyone would guess...
I went into Kursaal feeling tremendously optimistic. The cover was great; the
blurb evocative; and even the debutant author, Peter Anghelides, had a couple of well-respected Doctor Who short stories under his belt. Better still, Kursaal looked as if it was going to tap into an area that on television Doctor Who only ever touched upon every so lightly – lycanthropy.
“Gordon Christ!” my confidence was ill-founded. This book is perhaps the least compelling of the first seven BBC Books’ eighth Doctor adventures. As much as The Eight Doctors aggravated me, to give credit where it is due, my indignation kept me hooked and kept
me reading. Reading Kursaal, on the other hand, is a much less remarkable experience.
To look at the positive aspects of this book first,
I do like Anghelides’ story. Saturnia Regina -
a ‘theme park planet’ owned by one of these
domineering Corporations of Earth’s future - is
a wonderful venue for a Doctor Who story, and
the idea of werewolves running loose inside the
same makes for a very interesting premise indeed. What’s more, Anghelides does a truly wonderful job of surprising his readers with some startling revelations about the exact nature of these ‘Jax’ werewolves and how they increase their numbers.
I also think Anghelides handles the Doctor / Sam relationship very well. Whilst his charact-erisation of the Doctor is a little loose, he does seem to have a firm grasp on Sam and her budding feelings for the Time Lord.
Unfortunately though, Kursaal just doesn’t sustain itself over its 280 pages. What could have been a truly fascinating and outrageously gory rollercoaster of a novel rattles along with all the oomph of a children’s merry-go-round. Crucial characters like Kadjik and Cockaigne
are too tepid for words (“oh poo”…), and the whole ‘eco terrorism’ aspect of the plot is dragged out far too long to the detriment of everything else. Even the novel’s big-payoff – Sam’s infection with the Jax virus – could have been big and explosive and exciting, but instead wound up being completely understated and anti-climatic.
My main criticism of this novel though is that is lacks any real sort of direction. It isn’t as if
the elements are not interesting because many of them are; it is more that their execution lacks any sort of pace or vigour. About two thirds of the way through the narrative, the author takes a leaf out of Paul Erickson and Lesley Scott’s book and has the Doctor leave in the TARDIS, only to return to Saturnia Regina subjectively immediately, but objectively about fifteen years later. Now in most stories – as indeed it did in the case of The Ark – such a change of temporal location would give the writer a chance to freshen things up a bit with new characters, ideas and perhaps even story threads. Sadly though, this is not the case here as Kadijk and his cohorts are on hand again to see the novel through to its admittedly action-packed though uninspiring finale.
All told then I wouldn’t recommend Kursaal. Whilst it is far from being the worst Doctor Who novel in the world, it still isn’t really worth the effort, particularly considering that Anghelides has penned far better since. Far better.
Copyright © E.G. Wolverson 2010
E.G. Wolverson has asserted his right under the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act, 1988 to be identified as the author of this work.
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