(ISBN 0-563-48625-2)







 The solar system is

 being spring cleaned,

 to improve its feng

 shui and attract big

 business back to the

 long-abandoned seat

 of THE Earth empire.

 Aristotle Halcyon is

 heading the campaign.

 Having swept away

 the Asteroid Belt, he

 now plans to remove

 'unnecessary' moons



 But JUPITER'S ancient

 satellites hold SOME

 deadly secrets, as

 the Doctor, Fitz and

 Trix soon discover.

 With eco-terrorists

 plotting sabotage,

 corrupt officials

 lining their pockets

 and sinister forces

 acting on their own

 agendas, only the

 Doctor CAN see that

 millions of innocents

 have been set on the

 fast track to bloody,

 unbridled destruction.


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To the Slaughter







Of every Doctor Who novel that’s ever been written, I can’t think of one borne of

a dafter, more fannish conceit than this one. By Stephen Cole’s own admission, he wrote To the Slaughter to explain away the Doctor’s apparent astronomical ignorance in Revenge of the Cybermen - and that’s exactly what it does. In that 1975 serial, set in or around the 25th century, the Doctor stated that there were far fewer celestial bodies in the solar system than were known to exist even at the time of writing… and so, naturally, one assumes that in the interim a mad group of feng shui stellar decoratistes demolished dozens of them (not that the Doctor was wide of the mark, perish the thought, or that our universe is subtly different from that of the Whoniverse).

But whatever inspired this book, one can’t fault it conceptually. The first paragraph of its blurb is perhaps one of the most captivating in the whole range, and Cole really makes good on its explosive promise. Barely a chapter goes by without a moon or planetoid being blasted into oblivion, and the author is every bit as liberal with the story’s red-shirted cast of supporting characters, whose bodies hit the floor faster than the TARDIS’s fluid links run out of mercury.


However, the blurb’s latter half betrays its altogether less rousing elements – eco-saboteurs, bent bureaucrats, even “sinister forces” – and it is these that threaten to drag the story down. It doesn’t matter how many solar JCBs, obliging Sunday Roasts and imperishable slugs you have littering a tale if the nuts and bolts of it would have felt hackneyed even back in the mid-1970s. Fortunately though, the author’s tone is such that his readers are left in no doubt that To the Slaughter is meant to be something of a send up, albeit an unusually bloody one, and indeed it is the mischievous and often innuendo-laden prose that saw me though the book’s bloated middle.



This novel is also buoyed

by its striking portrayal of

the regular characters. In

his penultimate paperback

adventure, Paul McGann’s

Doctor is by turns playful

and deadly, exuding all the

incarnation’s emblematic

enthusiasm as well as more

besides. His involvement in

the destructive dénouement

is a lovely touch, his actions

here sparing his earlier self any intellectual embarrassment on Nerva. More impressive still though are Fitz and Trix, with whom the author has a ball. Charged with sewing the seeds of their whirlwind Gallifrey Chronicles love affair, Cole delights in bringing these two wayward souls together though a series of almost absurd death-defying scrapes that reveal Trix’s true colours, if not the secrets of her murky past, and an even funnier nearly-romance that shows us just how far Fitz’s come in recent novels. The book’s final passage is written particularly beautifully, serving as the perfect lead-in to the trio’s final adventure together... that we know of.


The supporting characters aren’t handled with anything like the same level of grace, but one or two of them are, nonetheless, quite impressive. The “Old Preservers” of the Solar System, Gaws and Mildred (not a 1970s sitcom, I should stress), are devilishly amusing, and Halycon and Sook are not far behind them. I never thought I’d read a book where bitter rivalries are created out of someone’s alleged debasement of feng shui. As villains go though, Robart Falsh (sic) is notably a poor effort, though I can appreciate his farcically-fitting fate.


Overall then, To the Slaughter is a real mixed bag, but it is at least an incredibly memorable one, which I can’t say about many of Cole’s less auspicious works. An “Endless Cupboard” of barmy notions, crazy conceits and fervent fan service, To the Slaughter is well worth the once-over, even today.


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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