THIS STORY TAKES
PLACE BETWEEN "THE
AND "THE DEADSTONE
OFFICIAL BBC 'EIGHTH
RELEASED IN AUGUST
The near future: a
man in a psychiatric
hospital claims to be
an alien called 'the
struggles to change
to the mentally ill.
It catches fire.
takes an overdose
and slips into a coma.
She dreams of Death
falling like a shroud
over a benighted OLD
the long-dead hound
The Sleep of Reason
Martin Day’s Sleep of Reason is one of the range’s most aberrant titles, and as a result it’s also one of its most admired. There is no complicated continuity at work here; no story arc to speak of. Even the TARDIS crew are sidelined for about a third of book, only to take a back seat to Day’s heroine when they finally appear. Most patently of all though, Day doesn’t pull his punches. If you thought that the Virgin books were adult with all their crukking cursing, then The Sleep of Reason is adult in a new and much more distressing fashion.
Day’s plot is probably the least remarkable thing about this book; it’s more an assemblage of gothic clichés couched in conventional Who staples than it is anything new or particularly thrilling. What makes it such an arresting read is the forcefulness of Day’s characterisation and the squalor of his fetid little world. A reader might have stumbled through many a spooky asylum in their literary life, but I doubt that they’ll find many with the painful stench of realism that this one boasts. It’s almost a shame that the Doctor and his companions had to show up, lift the veil and expose the inevitable alien menace.
Caroline ‘Laska’ Darnell is one
of Doctor Who literature’s most
extraordinary one-off characters.
A suicidal, self-harming teenager who can’t decide whether she wants to try and heal herself or slip deeper into her comfortable madness, Laska lends this novel an uncomfortable sense of truth. The author spends almost as many words exploring the character’s body dysmorphia as he does in furthering his plot, drawing the reader completely into her tortured little world before pulling it all into perspective as she encounters a traveller from an infinitely larger one.
Indeed, this novel’s beauty lies in the rhythms of the dance between the Doctor and Laska. I love how the Time Lord strolls into a world of sordid sex, self-interest and misery and starts to put it to rights as if it were a Dalek Empire. It’s almost as if the Sholem-Luz are the lesser of the evils that he fights here; as if the world that he’s looking to save isn’t the one that we live in, but the insular one of a forlorn teenage girl.
The Sleep of Reason is far from being perfect, however. With Laska at its heart, Fitz and Trix are both left in the shade. Fitz is, as one would expect, gifted a handful of idiosyncratic little skits, but Trix’s limited role is tremendously disappointing – this novel’s setting would have been the perfect place in which to crack open her past and explore all of its torments. The pacing is also a little haphazard, to put it mildly. Again this helps to heighten the level of realism, but does make for something of a discordant read.
Overall though, The Sleep of Reason is something divergent and exceptional, and that’s rarely a bad thing. It won’t be to everybody’s tastes of course, particularly those who despair of anything that dares to step outside the bounds of traditional Doctor Who. But for me and for many, The Sleep of Reason is an effective psychological chiller that reminds us exactly why the Virgin range was such a hit in its day. Who’d have thought that in the dying days of BBC Books’ classic series line, we’d be gifted one last New Adventure?
Copyright © E.G. Wolverson 2011
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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