THIS MAIN EVENTS
OF THIS STORY TAKE
BETWEEN THE TV
FENRIC" AND THE NOVEL
"THE HOLLOW MEN."
OFFICIAL BBC 'PAST
RELEASED IN SEPTEMBER
A genius maths nerd,
a weird webzine
publisher, and the
Doctor's old ally,
the Brigadier find
the Doctor and Ace
solve what should
be a simple puzzle:
the appearance of
a crop circle in the
But there are some
It's not a circle but
a series of square-
sided shapes. It's
filled with ice. And
it draws the Doctor
and a confrontation
with a reality right
next to zero.
The Algebra of Ice
The Algebra of Ice is one of the most outstanding Doctor Who novels that I’ve read in a very long time. For the most part a quiet, character-driven piece, this book reads more like a play than it does a novel as Lloyd Rose sucks you not only into her story but also into her characters’ heads.
I found the opening of the novel to be a bit deceptive, though. A glut of continuity references are shoehorned into the proceedings very early on, leading me to believe that The Algebra of Ice was going to be a Craig Hinton-style wistful run-around. For example, Rose explains away the spelling error on the I M FOREMAN gates in Remembrance of the Daleks (time jumps, see!) and drags the Brigadier out of the retirement – again! - for just a handful of unproductive scenes. However, as I read on I quickly realised that these little flourishes of permanence were not arbitrary; far from it. Here Rose focuses on the darker aspects of the seventh Doctor’s character, and what better way to do so than to explore his musings on
the destruction of Skaro, and to see the reaction of his oldest friend and confidante to the same?
Now I love how Rose broaches this delicate subject matter; here she paints the Doctor as the Season 24 clown on the outside, yet with the cold fire of the New Adventures ablaze on the inside. Certain scenes – the Doctor intentionally leaving Unwin to die, for example – are exceptionally well-written. The reader can almost see the cogs turning inside the old Time Lord’s head; see his rationalisation of the death but at the same time feel the guilt that it inevitably brings. And yet the reader knows that he would do it again.
Furthermore, somewhat unexpectedly for a novel that does the Doctor such justice, Ace is not overlooked here – indeed, she fares almost as well. Here she is just starting to leave behind the adolescent girl of the television series and become the much more regimented and brutal young woman of the early New Adventures and Big Finish audios. Though her heartbreaking relationship with Ethan Amberglass, here Rose offers us another glimpse of how such drastic changes in her character gradually came about.
For his part, Ethan turns out to
be a remarkably compelling
character; the young mathem-
atician surprising me on more
than one occasion. But even
Ethan is outshined by the
wonderfully astute piece of
characterisation that is Mole-
cross – peculiar conspiracy
webzine publisher cum Doctor
and Ace fawn-on. Together
with the regulars, these two characters really make The Algebra of Ice the claustrophobic little gem that it is.
“…I usually come out a bit odd, though my third and fifth incarnations weren’t bad.
I admit that at some point I’d like to be really handsome. Petty vanity, but there you are.”
Take, for example, the scene from which the above quotation is lifted. The Doctor being interviewed, deep cover-style; a touch fanwanky perhaps, but still entirely relevant to the issues being explored by the author, not to mention bloody brilliant. The author’s use of the Doctor’s strange old house on Allen Road was something of a masterstroke too.
That said, there far is more to The Algebra of Ice than just a tight ensemble of characters. Here Rose’s distinct voice tells a story that, even after forty years’ worth of adventures, still manages to stand out as being unusual and imaginative. I found the rather abstract plot to
be fascinating in the extreme, and what’s more the principal villain – Brett – is unlike any character that I’ve ever come across before in Doctor Who. His nihilistic rant at the Doctor
is truly disturbing; he makes the likes of the Master and Davros look sane.
At the end of the day, The Algebra of Ice isn’t going to be for everybody: action packed it
is not, but evocative and indulgent it most certainly is. In my book though, it is an absolute triumph.
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 makes it explicit, however, that for the Doctor and Ace, the preponderance of the events depicted here take place more than twenty subjective months prior to the events of the novel Timewyrm: Revelation.
Given the tight continuity between Survival and the Timewyrm novels, we take the view that this adventure takes place between The Curse of Fenric and The Hollow Men. As Ace directly refers to the events of The Curse of Fenric, we can’t place it any earlier than shortly after that story, and so we must assume that the Doctor and Ace enjoyed many subjective months’ worth of adventures after this one before finally heading
to Perivale for the classic television series’ final adventure.
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