Venus is dying. When the Doctor, Barbara and Ian arrive they find an ancient and utterly alien civilization on the verge of oblivion. War is brewing between those who are determined to accept death, and those desperate for salvation whatever the cost.


Then a spacefaring race arrives, offering to rescue the Venusians by moving them all to Earth - three billion years before mankind is due to evolve. Are the newcomersí motives as pure as they appear? And will the Doctor allow them to save his oldest friends by sacrificing the future of humanity?













Paul Leonardís first Doctor Who novel is one that I didnít enjoy very much all, though it does look like Iím firmly in the minority on this one.


So why didnít I like it? Well, Leonard has succeeded in writing a 1990s novel in the exact style of a 1960s television serial. This is perhaps the bookís greatest strength; perhaps even the reason that it has proven so popular, but unfortunately it is also its greatest weakness as for all the atmosphere and mood that Leonardís writing evokes, it is long, slow and - in my view at least - really rather turgid.


Venusian Lullaby starts off reasonably well. The Venusians are conceived as completely alien creatures, not only in their gigantic hexapodic appearance but also in the way that they think; the way that they act; and the things that they value. Admittedly this makes for some breathtaking science fiction, but, as I found with Mark Gatissís New Adventure, St Anthonyís Fire, it also makes the aliens incredibly difficult to sympathise with. And with only two human characters and one humanoid to enjoy the story through, I really found myself flagging around the bookís halfway point.


© Virgin 1994. No copyright infringement is intended.This is a great pity because I love the novelís mischievous premise Ė long before life ever evolved on our world, a society thrived on Venus. However, as time wore on, the planet became too hot and the Venusians found themselves on the edge of extinction - until an alien race came along to save the day, offering to move the Venusians to the third, uninhabited planet of their solar system: Earth! Itís a bit of a pickle for the Doctor, to say the least. Sadly, the threads of this plot donít even start to come together until well over a hundred pages in, by which time Iíd completely lost interest in the Venusians and their distinct lack of martial arts proficiency.


However, Leonard does at least handle the regulars beautifully. Bludgeoned into the tight gap between The Dalek Invasion of Earth and The Rescue, this novel deals with Susanís sudden departure at the end of the previous story in a much more satisfying way than The Rescue ever did. There are some particularly poignant passages where the Doctor reflects on what will happen to Susan when David gets old and dies, written as if the Doctor knows from experience what his granddaughter is going to go through.


ĒI am not Susan! Nor am I a piece of her,

whatever youíve told the Venusians. Neither is Ian.

Weíre people - people who are travelling with you,

and through no choice of our own.

You have a responsibility to us.

If you canít get us home, very well.

But at least you can look after us in the meantime.

Or if you wonít - if youíre too busy with your Ďmysteriesí

- then weíll just have to look after ourselves.ď


Ian and Barbara (when they arenít convinced that theyíre Venusians) are also afforded a little more depth than they ever were on television - Ian in particular is forced to confront his feelings about his travels in the TARDIS, which I found very interesting indeed.


Altogether though Venusian Lullaby is a long, slow grind. Itís jam-packed full of proper aliens, each described in immense detail, but sadly it just couldnít hold my attention over the three hundred plus pages. I can see that itís exceedingly well written and I can see why other readers regard it with such esteem, but it just isnít my cup of tea.

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Copyright © E.G. Wolverson 2006


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