THIS STORY TAKES
PLACE BETWEEN THE
NOVEL "SNOWGLOBE 7"
AND THE COMIC STRIP
"BLACK DEATH / WHITE
OFFICIAL BBC HARDBACK
RELEASED IN APRIL
The Nor' Loch is being
filled in. If you ask
the soldiers there,
they'll tell you it's
a stinking cesspool
that the city can do
without. But that
doesn't explain why
the workers won't
go near the place
without an armed
guard. That doesn't
explain why they
about the loch giving
up its dead, about the
minister who walked
into his church Years
after he died...
It doesn't explain
why, as they work,
they whisper about
a man called the
Doctor. And about
the many hands of
On the strength of the charmingly creepy cover art alone, I’m sure that many
would agree with me when I say that of the three April 2008 novels, The Many Hands by Dale Smith is ostensibly the most alluring. The disembodied hand may be a gimmick that has been done before – and done splendidly, I might add – in Doctor Who, but even so
there is something delightfully horrid about the putrid, purple talons depicted on the front cover that really fires the imagination before even a single page has been read.
Fortunately though, The Many Hands is every bit as inspiring on the inside as it is on the out. Indeed, it really took me by surprise just how enjoyable this novel is; I had not come across Smith’s work before, and so I wasn’t quite sure what to expect. In terms of style and tone, Smith’s writing put me very much in mind of Mark Gatiss – very dark and very funny; very intelligent and informed. Smith really brings 18th century Scotland to life with his wry, vibrant prose.
The novel’s setting also lends itself to what is
rapidly becoming a staple of the new series –
the cameo from a famed historical figure, which
in this case is notorious American Statesman,
Benjamin Franklin. Here Franklin may not be
running around naked and smoking weed as
Tenacious D would have you believe, however through his fleeting appearances Smith does
a very good job of conveying both the man’s genius and his eccentricity.
The Many Hands is a lot of fun too. The author seems to take great delight in gently poking fun at the series; the tenth Doctor in particular has some great comic scenes in this book
as he prances around with his psychic paper proclaiming himself to be a “Baronet of Nova Scotia” and speaking in his ‘ersatz’ Scots accent, before reverting to his ‘natural’ mockney twang. There are also a few nice little continuity references for the fans – the Doctor talks about his friend “who fought at Culloden”, and when he first encounters the walking dead
he mistakes them for the Gelth! Even the Slitheen family get a mention by way of a rather unflattering simile. Most humorously of all though, for what I think must be the first time in forty-five years, someone finally uses the immortal gag:
MARTHA (to the concussed Doctor) Are you OK? Do you know what year it is?
THE DOCTOR 1759.
The plot itself is perhaps the book’s least successful ingredient, but it is still sufficiently riveting to hold the reader’s attention over the 244 pages. Before I started reading book, I half expected it to be sequel to The Hand of Fear, but it’s actually more interesting than that would have been. It’s just a shame that I read The Many Hands in two parts, either side of watching The Sontaran Stratagem on telly – if it is a clash between reading about cloning and genetics in print, or witnessing the same through the altogether more visceral medium
of television, well… there was only ever going to be one winner.
Nevertheless Smith’s debut is an irrefutably impressive one. Everything else aside, I was
just thrilled to read a tie-in novel with such an unusually high dose of the macabre.
Copyright © E.G. Wolverson 2008
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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