THIS STORY TAKES
PLACE BETWEEN THE
BIG FINISH AUDIO
OFFICIAL BBC 'PAST
RELEASED IN MARCH
WHAT LURKS IN THE
vital issue of today...
you will never look
at a computer the
same way.' -
A dramatic story of hi-tech crime, “Blue Box” chronicles a computer project that could literally change the way you think. You will never look at a computer the same way…
Of course, the above are not my words; they are the author’s, lifted from her novel’s blurb. Very much in the style of David Bishop’s Doctor Who conspiracy thriller “Who Killed Kennedy”, Kate Orman’s “Blue Box” is co-authored by the fictional Charles ‘Chick Boy’ Peters, giving this novel a remarkable and, quite frankly, invigorating perspective. Here, to
all intents and purposes, we are not reading about the Doctor and his adventures; we are reading about the life of an ordinary man (well…) on the adventure of his life. The black-suited sixth Doctor and blonde-haired Peri Smith1 are merely characters in his story.
I am sorry to say though that the first person narration does not work as well here as it has done in previous novels as, for one thing, Peters writes about events that happened outside his own experience. Sure, one could accept the conceit that before putting pen to paper he interviewed the Doctor and Peri, and perhaps even the villain of the piece, Sarah Swan, but even so the prose lacks the propinquity of a traditional autobiographical tale. Worse still, late on the in the novel Peters drops the most bizarre of bombshells that leaves the reader feeling completely confounded. After two hundred pages or so of first person narration, a reader needs to feel like they really know the narrator. Regrettably “Blue Box” completely destroys this illusion for, it seems to me, no apparent reason.
However, my criticisms of this novel end there as, by and large, I really enjoyed this techie tale of retro computer hacking. I would even go so far as to say that the ‘Phreakfest’ review on the back cover of the book is more or less right on the money!
In particular, I love how Orman handles the sixth Doctor and Peri here. What other writer would think of taking Peri home in order to explore her homesickness? And as for the sixth Doctor, that black suit really does make the world of difference, even considering that this is a novel and we do not have to look at him. In all seriousness though, the Doctor’s battle of wits with Swan inside the electronic labyrinth of the internet is executed so very well that it
put me in mind of the remote conflict between Captain James T Kirk and Khan Noonien Singh in Star Trek II – The Wrath of Khan. They may not physically cross paths, but nevertheless the intensity is of the page. Swan, I think it is fair to say, is a whole new brand
of baddie – very 1984, very Big Brother, and every bit as intimidating as a tentacled
monster from outer space, if not more so.
I note that the structure and pace of this novel has been heavily criticised by some readers, but I read this book about fifty pages at a time over the course of a week and not once was I bored with it; quite the opposite, in fact. It may be twisting, peculiar and have an utterly misleading title, but it is certainly a wholly original piece of work – and one that I would heartily recommend to anyone.
1 Not her real name
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 offers no guidance as to its placement. The text itself is more helpful though, as the Doctor and Peri are the embodiment of their Season 22 selves. As the Doctor takes his friends to a vegetarian café, this would suggest a placement after The Two Doctors. What’s more, as Peri is apparently wrestling with the decision of whether or not to leave the Doctor, a placement between the Big Finish audio dramas Davros and Cryptobiosis would seem appropriate, as the events of Davros gave Peri a taste of life on her own, potentially serving as the catalyst for her ruminations here.
Thanks to Jason Robbins
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