THIS STORY TAKES
place BETWEEN THE
TV STORY "INFERNO"
AND THE BIG FINISH
OFFICIAL VIRGIN 'MISSING
RELEASED IN APRIL
1934: Salutua, a
legendary lost island
in the Pacific.
J. Grover’s expedition
arrives to uncover
and exploit its
secrets. But the task
is complicated by a
film star’s fears and
ambitions and a
Nearly forty years
London. The Doctor
and Liz Shaw are
asked to identify a
and trace its origin.
The trail leads them
back in time to
Salutua and a
Brigadier faces an
epidemic of UFO
threaten to bring
about global panic.
Only the Doctor can
help – but he’s
trapped on a
mythical island four
decades in the past.
of the Giant
Now I was really looking forward to this book. Not because Christopher Bulis is a favourite author of mine or even because the third Doctor is one of my favourite Doctors; au contraire. Generally speaking, I have enjoyed Bulis’ previous Doctor Who novels though none of them
I have found to be particularly remarkable. Furthermore, I am not over-keen on the third Doctor – he is just a bit too straight-laced for my liking. So why all the anticipation?
Well, in short it is because a’m a massive fan of UNIT. Despite my lack of interest in the apposite Doctor, seasons seven through eleven are some of my favourites (well, maybe not eleven). The Brigadier, Sergeant Benton, Captain Yates, Liz Shaw, Jo Grant, the Master, Bessie, that old science lab – you name it, I love it. The whole era had a unique flavour that has never been matched since.
Furthermore, in the only UNIT novel published to date (Paul Leonard’s “Dancing The Code”)
I was very impressed with how the author depicted the UNIT organisation and the world that it inhabits. It all seemed so real. We saw UNIT involved in world politics, something
often hinted at on television and explored very lightly in stories like “The Mind of Evil” and “Day of the Daleks”, but never truly made explicit. Similarly, “The Eye of the Giant” gives us some new insight into a bygone era. Taking us right back to the end of season seven, Bulis tells the story of the Doctor escaping his exile for the very first time, and of a dashing young Sergeant named Mike Yates beginning his inexorable rise to Captain.
The first 250 pages or so of this novel are spectacular. The desert island setting is evocative, Bulis truly making use of the printed word to tell a story that could never have
been realised on television in the early 1970s. “The Eye of the Giant” is far more than just a monster mash, though. The novel is grounded in some pretty hardcore science fiction; take the eponymous giant, for example. Brokk is a gargantuan alien life form, but he is not just a ‘big alien’. He is from a world with different gravity and a different climate. He cannot bear the relative cold. He cannot move. He is alien in every sense of the world. The marine Semquess are even farther removed from the usual humanoid aliens that the Doctor encounters, so much so that they have to exist inside small, pressurised tanks. Everything is described so vividly and so well by the author that you really get a feel for these marvellously foreign extraterrestrial menaces.
What I felt worked even better were the oversized indigenous life forms on the island. Brokk’s stolen genetic drugs had caused everything from ants to crabs to grow massively in size. We have scenes where gigantic crabs lay siege to the ship and graphically dismember the crew; truly chilling stuff, made all the more scary because you do not have use your imagination all that much to imagine being maimed by a giant crab.
However, no matter how good the above side of things is, without a heart and a compelling plot any novel will crash and burn. Thankfully here Bulis has crafted a story that is littered with memorable, sympathetic characters and is constructed around a tried and tested premise.
1934. Millionaire Marshal Grover has taken his sailing ship to the legendary ‘lost’ island of Salutua because he has heard rumours of colossal creatures residing there – creatures that could be used to make the greatest motion picture of all time. Sound familiar? It should.
“The Eye of the Giant” has almost as much in common with King Kong as “Robot” did. With him are his gold-digging wife, Nancy, and his crippled daughter, Amelia. Both are outstanding characters - Nancy is vicious, twisted and selfish but she is also so acutely aware of her own failings that it is almost endearing at times. Amelia is her mirror opposite. She lost her arm in the car crash that killed her mother, and as he was driving the car on that fateful day her father is wracked with guilt. Part of his motivation in seeking out this ‘lost’ island is that he has been convinced by a scientist that somewhere on this island is the key to making his daughter’s arm grow back. I knew it sounds ludicrously far-fetched, but it is so well written that it all seems so real. You can see the cogs turning inside Grover’s head. You see Nancy seething with jealousy over her husband clearly loving his daughter more than he does her. You even build up a extraordinary amount of admiration for Amelia who, in the
face of everything, remains stoic, kind and thoroughly likeable.
Throw Yates, Liz, and the Doctor – free from his exile if not in spatial terms than at least in temporal – and you have one hell of a story. I should also mention that Bulis’ third Doctor is decisively the third Doctor – I have criticised Bulis in the past for making his Doctors too generic. Not this time, old chap.
At its best, this novel is unputdownable.
Regrettably, the last section of the book gets a little bit too bizarre for my liking. There is some kind of time anomaly and history is altered and then changed back; Nancy becomes a demi-god etc. In fairness though, it did remind me very much of the serials around this novel as they used to have four or five episodes dealing with the main plot, and then have another two or three tacked on where the story goes off on a tangent in some tenuously-linked direction. Despite my best efforts, I just could not get along with the end of the story at all. Amelia’s ascension to a higher plane of existence only soured things further - I wanted her to end up with Mike Yates. They had remarkable chemistry in their scenes together.
All told though, a rather jaded ending is defensible because it only increases the feelings of nostalgia that one gets from reading “The Eye of the Giant”. Most of the Target books that I read as a kid were about the UNIT era, and this novel really took me back to those days. It is just that this novel is twice as long and for grown-ups.
Copyright © E.G. Wolverson 2006
E.G. Wolverson has asserted his right under the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act, 1988 to be identified as the author of this work.
This novel’s blurb places it between the television stories Inferno and Terror of the Autons. As Liz Shaw is
still happily working for UNIT here, we have placed this adventure prior to both The Blue Tooth (which looks
at her decision to leave UNIT) and The Scales of Injustice (which actually sees her leave).
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