Sunday, 20 March 2011

The Third Zone Issue Two is out now...

Issue Two of The Third Zone has arrived...

The latest merchandise has been reviewed. From Big Finish we have The Feast of Axos, The Perpetual Bond and Andy has tackled both The Mutants and The Ark on DVD. Note – we were going to include the latest eighth Doctor audio Lucie Miller but we have decided to review the two-part storyline as a whole.

This months Matter of Perspective sees Steve Lyons popular New Adventure, Conundrum come under the limelight. Reversing our roles from last month, Andy has been reading away and has a good grilling by yours truly.

The Evelyn Escapades seems to have been one of the most popular elements on the site with the most hits (the reviews excepted) and this month we have completed two stories and have posted our responses The Spectre of Lanyon Moor.

Charlotte and Simon, our non-fan cohorts have been watching the William Hartnell classic, Planet of Giants.

This month’s debate is contemporary topic – Amy Pond, heavenly or whore? Andy stands in defence of the Doctor’s latest companion whilst I try and convince you that she doesn’t quite work.

Exciting interviews with two of Big Finish’s most exciting current writers, Jacqueline Rayner (Wolfsbane, Dr Who & the Pirates) and Simon Guerrier (The Perpetual Bond). They share their thoughts on their latest work.

Who Online this month praises the Big Finish review and voting site, The Time Scales.

I look back at Nicholas Courtney's contributions to Doctor Who and include my top five favourite Brigadier stories.

All this plus part two of our exciting three part fiction piece, The Shadows Makers written by Joe Ford and an essay looking at the delightful Big Finish spin off The Companion Chronicles Seasons 1-3

Any comments can be posted on the site or sent to [email][/email]

Issue three will be released March 15th – happy reading!

Joe Ford (co editor)

Sunday, 13 March 2011

Camera Obscura by Lloyd Rose

Plot: There is a time machine causing dangerous instabilities, fracturing people both mentally and physically. Worse, its continued use might see the time continuum chewed up and spat out. The Doctor turns to his sometime ally, sometime enemy Sabbath for help tracking down the machine and along the way discovers some very disturbing things about where his heart is in the matter…

Top Doc: He springs from the page, vivid and electrifying, it’s another astonishing example of why the eighth Doctor is such an amazing character these days. He has never gotten used to his single heart and he never will. He feels it makes him damaged, crippled and worse, human. His memory and heart have both been taken from him but thinking about them is a waste of the time he has too much of. He remembers once being shorter, and taller too! His profile is dramatic rather than beautiful. He gets annoyed at his lack of ability to die but he soon realises Sabbath is ‘using’ his second heart and wakes up screaming, “You son of a bitch!” He is furious at Sabbath’s homicidal tactics and enjoys winding him up, attacking him in his mind with a giant squid simply because he is a ‘jerk’. He takes things far too personally. The Doctor hates his weaknesses, he feels he know longer deserves his heart and wonders if he was responsible for whatever infected and blackened it. He is bored with the ‘empty pockets’ routine, not giving a toss how many yo yos he has (tee hee). He is asked if he ever shuts up. He ponders on why he is so great at saving himself but less successful with others. A sly animal, you never know what he is about. He beautifully sums up what he is about, “Injustice is the rule, but I want justice. Suffering is the rule but I want to end it. Despair accords with reality but I insist on hope. I don’t accept it because it is unacceptable. I say no.” Proving how close to the edge he can be, he is willing to risk a confrontation with Death to stop the time machine being used again. He discovers from her that he has cheated death many times before. Described as a monstrous egotist, insane risk taker, a manipulator and trickster, someone who is radically and completely other. When it comes to women, the Doctor is practically a monk. Heartless, no matter how many beat in his chest. In the exciting climax he suicidally attempts to trick the Chiltern monster into throwing him into the machine and destroy it and despite Sabbath’s attempts to retain it, the Doctor succeeds. He is treated to a stunning array of strange man staring back at him in the mirrors, previous incarnations that he does not recognise. Catalytic, the bringer of fate. Sabbath has destroyed his integrity; he’s neither complete nor incomplete.

Scruffy Git: It is interesting to get to see the reaction of the Doctor’s companions existing on the periphery of the story, kept in the dark about much of what is going on and left to sit by the Doctor’s bedside as he throws himself into one near death experience after another. Fitz is far more sombre than we have seen before and is cut deeply when Jane calls him a loser, forcing him to re-evaluate his life and discover that he is not entirely satisfied trailing after the Doctor. As a result he signs himself up for an expedition to Siberia to search for fossils. Usually pretending to be someone else is relaxing and liberating for him but he finds Victorian London depressing and can’t find any way of picking up girls without visiting a whore house and that is bit a raw even for him. He celebrated his 33rd birthday in Spain (History 101) and is terrified of never reaching 40. His love for the Doctor is proven when he stays by the guy’s side, even when he threatens to break every bone in his body.

Career Nazi: The Doctor’s weakness in this story affects Anji greatly, getting cross with him for being so blasĂ© about his near death experiences. She is tired and tries to stress to the Doctor how hard it is to sit at his side and wonder if he is going to die. She admits how much she cares about him, being with him has made her very protective of him. She is appalled at her own rage towards the Angel Maker for stabbing the Doctor, calling her a bitch and dragging her by her hair. She decides if he survives, she is going home. Anji feels absurd in a sari and doesn’t like being stared at because she is different. She trusts the Doctor’s intentions but sometimes feels he stumbles around in the dark.

Ham Fists: Finally Sabbath gets a book where he is centre stage and it more than lives up to Adventuress. Described as a housekeeper tidying up the universe. He needed to ‘use’ the Doctor’s heart to penetrate Deep Time and is now physically tied to the Doctor. Every time he has been in mortal danger, Sabbath has felt the effects. Brilliant in his own way and used to the finer things in life, he appropriates a mansion and sets about giving a time sensitive an education. Sinister, mysterious and something of a posturing ham. Sabbath feels the Doctor is dangerous, visiting time zones and branching off a new timeline each time he does. The Doctor states he must be stopped by any means. He loves clocks because they translate time into sounds and make it so apprehensible to human senses. In the climax Sabbath tears out the Doctor’s heart, grieving for the loss of the Angel Maker and tells the Doctor that it is not a human heart. It is shocking, the most emotional moment the fella has had yet.

Foreboding: Anji is going home, Fitz is going to Siberia and Sabbath is companionless…all this segues into the next book, Time Zero. Sabbath’s employers want to keep the Doctor from themselves.

Twists: There is a scene from Anji’s POV of Victorian London, which is awesome truly comes alive. Dealing with Miss Jane and her fractured personalities is really creepy. Anji and Fitz’s wandering around Crystal Palace is bedazzling. Octave is revealed to be the same man split into eight parts by the time machine. The eight parts attack the Doctor viciously, smashing a sandbag down on his chest and driving his ribcage through his back into the floorboards. Sabbath is revealed to have stolen the Doctor’s heart and actually implanted into his body, thus saving the Doctor from death at the hands of Octave. He slaughters Octave, thinking it will be the end of the problem. The time machine is revealed as being supremely dangerous, capable of bringing the time period to you and allowing you to step into it. It is designed to be used by many civilisations, user friendly and adapted to in this new universe where time is unregulated. Even with all its parts it could distort time and destroy the universe. The dragging, limping rustling creature that attacks the Doctor in his darkened cell is absolutely terrifying. Chapter Seventeen is fantastic, the pinnacle of Doctor Who prose, frightening, atmospheric and intoxicatingly good. The Doctor thinks Sabbath is trying to strangle reality, pairing down its possibilities. He tricks the Angel Maker into stabbing him through his remaining heart and descends into hell in a truly nightmarish sequence. Sabbath discovers him impaled on a meat hook, part of a clocks mechanism! Chiltern monster is horrific, revealed to be made of eight parts, including a toaster, a rose bush and a rats mouth snapping away instead of an eye. In a shocking climax, Chiltern kills the Angel Maker and Sabbath viciously snaps his neck, killing both him and Nathaniel. Sabbath, disgusted by the Doctor’s otherness, rips the heart from his chest and frees the link between them.

Funny bits: The Doctor cannot resist leaving a whoopee cushion down for Sabbath to sit on. His attempts to pretend to be knocked out and dragged away by Scale are hilarious. The hate-hate relationship between Anji and Sabbath leads to her unkindly suggesting his name is really Melvin. “You know Doctor, even allowing for the, ah, unique circumstances of your last near death experience, it’s extraordinary how often you’re plucked out of trouble at the last minute. Rescuers turn up. Weapons jam. Your companions, who, if you’ll forgive me, don’t strike me as more than usually competent, save the day. Buildings explode immediately after you find the way out. Cities fall just after the TARDIS materialises. Electrical currents short circuit. Evil masterminds make foolish errors. If you fall out of a window, there is someone to catch you. If you’re drowning, a spar floats by. You find your way unsigned out of burning houses. You survive alien mind probes that would boil the average brain in its skull. You are dug unharmed beneath fallen rubble. No one ever shoots you in the head. Deadly drugs turn out not to affect you. Villains tie you up too loosely, and hidebound tyrants’ convictions falter at your rhetoric. In short, in your presence, the odds collapse.”

Result: A magnificent novel, one of the best Doctor Who books published and a really tasty historical with so many memorable passages I would be recounting much of the book to list them all. After you have finished it you realise that the plot is actually quite thin, nothing more than a protracted chase after a time machine but how the book works its way into the running arc of the EDAs turns it into so much more. This book succeeds on the astonishing strength of characterisation and brutally thoughtful moments. The Doctor and Sabbath are explored in considerable depth and any scene featuring the pair is instantly classic, bouncing off each other beautifully. The prose is stimulating, the sheer beauty of the writing results in an effortless read. It the pinnacle of a great run of books, matching Rose’s debut step for step and being the all round best achiever of the ranger since Adventuress. Powerful and involving, read this now: 10/10

Saturday, 12 March 2011

The Dying Days by Lance Parkin

(Warning! Warning! There are a quartet of very popular new Adventures that I had a reaction akin to a tropical skin rash and The Dying Days is the last of them. The others, if you are interested were Timewyrm; Revelation, Warlock and Return of the Living Dad. Odd that these are authors whose work I would often put with the best of the best but I guess everybody has there off days. Anyway if you don’t want your favourite Doctor Who book torn to pieces before your eyes please avert your eyes now)

Top Doc: So Virgin got to have a spin at producing an eighth Doctor so we can spend an age speculating what they would have done with the character had they been able to keep hold of the Doctor Who licence. Whilst I would go on to have problems with how the BBC used the character for the phase of the EDAs it would appear his true character would be as elusive for the best of the Virgin writers. This is one of the blandest renditions of any Doctor’s in print, he is generic in practically every way and I could not reconcile this depiction with what we saw in the TV Movie. Even if this is set after the EDAs like Parkin suggests in his ebook notes on the BBC website, there is none of the giddy childlike wonder or thoughtful sensitivity that Paul McGann brought to the part. Oddly enough considering this is an alien invasion of Earth the Doctor does absolutely nothing of worth until the finale, he is completely impotent, observing events, shouting a few threats, going underground and then dying. Given that Parkin gave us possibly the most nuanced and dramatic use of the seventh Doctor in the New Adventures in Just War I cannot imagine what happened here.

You couldn’t even rely on the Doctor to be unreliable. He bursts into the house on Allen Road, full of cuddles and gossip. Behind the 7th Doctor’s his tricks, plans and dark expressions there was a little man who thought the universe ought to be a friendlier place. He didn’t have sex appeal or boyish charm. The Doctor once and a while needed protecting from the universe he protected. He finds the idea that a man wanting to see him just because he is attractive absurd. This Doctor rushed into danger without a plan or a scheme. Before he changed the Doctor seemed to know everything about everything. He had no regrets. Why would he? For 1200 years and in every corner of time and space he had helped others to hold back death; he’d helped them go forward in all their beliefs. Then by their own achievements, their own heroism, their own sacrifices, his companions – his friends – had proved his actions right. He could think of no better epitaph. He is half lemming, on his mothers side.

Proving things would have been as overblown and as melodramatic as they could have be with the 7th Doctor, the 8th Doctor, believed dead, bursts back into action with a speech that feels horribly self congratulatory. I hate it when the show bigs up the Doctor as something bigger than the series itself – all those speeches about how fabulous he is in the New Series (especially that one in Voyage of the Damned straight at the camera) and it is particularly loathsome here, especially given his new nickname ‘I am the Eighth Man Bound.’ Oh ¤¤¤¤ off. I don’t need to be told that the Doctor is fabulous, I need to be shown. I nearly threw the book in the bath. I don’t want to sound like a party pooper but in some ways I am glad this sort of nonsense was not followed through.

Boozy Babe: Better, because Bernice is so well set up as a character but again there is nothing here that will blow your socks off. Bernice has convinced a publishing company there is a market for her memoirs. For 33 years she has slept alone so why did she feel lonely waking up with no one beside now Jason has gone. She is shocked to discover the Doctor has no clue what is going on. She has been offered the chair of archaeology at St Oscar’s University on the planet Dellah. Rather wonderfully she dresses up in the clothes as depicted on the Love and War cover.

Foreboding: As the passing of the torch between the series this book serves its purpose. The 7th Doctor is gone. The 8th Doctor is off to get embroiled in a Time War with the BBC and Bernice is about to embark on a War of Gods with Virgin.

Twists: The helicopter crashing down into the garden on Allen Road is a superb way of getting our attention and getting the Doctor and Benny involved in the action – the book should have been full of moments like this. The new TARDIS control room was always the original, the Doctor had just gotten used to the white one (this is slightly contradicted in Lungbarrow where the first Doctor walks into the TARDIS and it is the white control room). The book starts off with a gripping back story of Mars Probe 13 retuning with a dead crew, bodies split open and their eyes missing with Christian sending back mad religious ravings on the journey back to Earth – this sort of vicious psychological horror would have been much preferable to the story that unfolds, suggesting this was all a hoax. I loved the five minute delay with the shuttle – it is a great tension building exercise. The landing site was changed just before the launch and the astronauts were ordered away from the unpopulated areas right into the heart of an area jam packed with Martian buildings. They desecrate and steal from a Marshal’s tomb and the people of Great Britain face summary execution. The Prime Minister being shot is a great shock moment. It is revealed that the Martians were heading for Earth a day and a half before the astronauts set foot on Mars. The Martian spaceship does a spectacular passing over London. Ice Warriors hiss because they are gasping for nitrogen out of their natural atmosphere. For 20 years the British Secret Service has been covering up that any fit man can walk on the surface of Mars. The geeks breaking the government code makes for a good moment. For a Martian breathing Terran air is like drowning in soup. A human being shot by a sonic weapon would suffer entirely internal injuries – every bone in their body would shatter. One of the better moments in the second half of the book comes when the Ice Warriors attack the house on Allen Road, Benny proves very resourceful by chucking a kettle of boiling water at one and covering another in vodka and setting it alight! The Red Death is a sentient gas programmed to hunt the Doctor and it won’t stop killing until he was dead.

Funny Bits: The best thing about The Dying Days is its glimpses of humour which broke through my scowls occasionally…
Who Killed Kennedy had gotten close to compromising UNIT – James Stevens had gone to ground but David Bishop was still in London.
The Doctor, Benny and Bambera being tricked into the alleyway made me chuckle.
Ralph Cornish and his boyfriend?
UNIT defeated invasions by the Drahvins and the Bandrils, basically the ones that were beneath the Doctor’s dignity.
To get Net access Bernice tells the café owner the details of Star Trek X

Embarrassing Bits:
* Reading this review so far you might be convinced that I really liked The Dying Days! Oops! My biggest problem with the book is its approach to an alien invasion. It’s boring. It’s the slowest, least ambitious take over of the planet we have ever witnessed. All of the details have been ironed out before the Ice Warriors get here so they just hover their spaceship over London and hang about there for
several days, doing so little that the human race goes about its business. Then after the Doctor has been surgically removed from the plot (more on that later) we rejoin the story after the invasion has begun and see everything from the resistance trenches. That’s right folks…the invasion actually happens off the page! We never see the Martians attacking, subjugating the human race or doing anything beyond snarling threats. I kept feeling as though I was missing the point of this invasion and wondering when the threat was going to feel real. It never happened. And oddly the Doctor merely disables the Martian warship leaving its destruction to the Royal Air Force. Parkin would have another crack at an alien invasion and would write one that was more visually and intellectually interesting in The Gallifrey Chronicles in about 50 pages.

* The 8th Doctor and Bernice do not have any chemistry. There I said it. Shoot me down in flames. She fancies him, he has no idea what is going on, that’s about all you could say about both of their characters as they trip their way through this novel. They are not witty enough to be diverting or clever enough to be engaging. They just react to the plot in very functional ways. Frankly, for all the good they do it might have been better if Bernice had grabbed the Doctor at the beginning of the story and threw him on the bed and shagged his brains out whilst the human race looked after themselves.

* Xnzaal’s coronation has to be seen to be believed – that was when I finally thought this story had tipped over into farce! When he threatened to take on Jesus Christ in a duel I nearly spat my coffee out!

* What the hell was all that stuff with the Doctor’s death all about? I mean come on…thank God this wasn’t how the Doctor died as it would have been really embarrassing. In a moment of melodrama completely separated to the main plot the Martians release the Red Death to hunt the Doctor down. The Time Lord trips over corpses to save a cat and winds up sacrificing himself. It’s just really odd, and I found myself giggling a bit.

* I realise this is an unfair comment to make because the books came first but there is so much of this book that has been copied and done better in the new series. The politics in this book reminds me of Aliens of London, except that was funnier. The spaceship over London was nicked in its entirety in The Christmas Invasion but somehow it feels meatier on the television. Indeed with this being the introductory story for a Doctor who appears to be dying and who jumps back to life in the last third to save the Earth from an alien invasion by confronting the leader of aliens on his ship that is hovering over London…there is a lot that feels like The Christmas Invasion. This sort of material, visual and dramatic, is ripe for television but feels shallow and underwhelming in print. Doctor Who books have always aimed higher; even when they are less than enthralling there is usually an ambitious idea in there that could not be produced on the television budget. The Dying Days feels like Doctor Who on the telly, which is probably why it was so well received in the wilderness years but now, in the midst of the shows awesome comeback, it feels tired, traditional and frankly quite dull.

Result: Ouch, a real slap in the face for those of us who expect complex things from these novels, The Dying Days is a blockbusting TV script that (oddly for a novel) avoids showing us anything that might break the budget. Featuring the 8th Doctor, Bernice Summerfield Brigadiers Lethbridge Stewart and Bambera and the Ice Warriors, this is an obvious crowd pleaser which doesn’t tackle any of these characters with any depth as the novels usually would. The first third generates some interest with some nice build up and action but the invasion is sidelined and the Doctor and Benny barely penetrate the action. Nothing especially surprising happens throughout, the Ice Warriors arrive, they snarl some threats and they are destroyed. Lance Parkin writes smoothly and adds lots of continuity touches and laughs but with a plot as dumb as this he is fighting a losing battle to keep my interest. What’s really surprising is how boring the material not featuring the Doctor is, I would have thought watching the human race trying to cope with an alien invasion would be astonishing but here it is a real struggle to care about. All of the best material here has been stolen by the TV series and done with far more panache. As a closing story for the Doctor Who New Adventures it exhibits nothing of that series’ ambition or verve and feels more safe and predictable than the TV Movie itself. A real let down: 4/10

Sunday, 6 March 2011

The Stone Rose written by Jacqueline Rayner

Plot: When Mickey discovers a statue of Rose in a museum, the Doctor takes her back in time 2000 years to make it happen. The truth behind the statue reveals that you should always be careful what you wish for…

Mockney Dude: The Doctor doesn’t do rewards. The Doctor sitting in an orchard under a tree with peach blossom sprinkling is a lovely image. He turns heads wherever he goes; it’s a burden he’s learnt to live with. Doing things that have never been done are his speciality. I love the scene where he half inches Rufus’ horse, first making sure it is morally acceptable! The Doctor is appalled at how many species will make extinct because of the gladiatorial games. How fun are the scenes of the Doctor being promised his freedom and being tricked into the arena where he faces lions, tigers and bears – ‘oh my!’ The Doctor is pretty awesome in the arena, jumping on the bears back and using his pals John, Paul, Ringo and George to defeat the animals without spilling their blood. The crowd wants blood and alas it turns out to be their own as the animals leap into the audience! He’s a terrific showman, bringing statues to life and doing tricks. The Doctor is not known for his forgiving nature. When the Doctor is on a mission there is no way he will be distracted. When he thinks he has killed Rose he hates himself for it. Rose isn’t ordinary and the Doctor wasn’t going to wrap her in cotton wool and protect her from everything. He is caught in stone at his most Doctorish, trying to save somebody’s life. I loved the idea that the Doctor can see things that once happened even if they haven’t happened any more.

Chavvy Chick: Just brilliant, as soon as I am about to write off Rose as a literary character Jac Rayner comes along and proves me completely wrong. Read on… You have got to love Rose’s mother, she is the ultimate chav! Jackie frowns on Rose paying to enter the museum when you don’t have to (plus she wants to find out why the Doctor doesn’t wrinkle and wonders if they can make a quid or two with the secret). Rose quite rightly admits that lying on a sheepskin rug whilst Mickey’s mate pervs over her isn’t quite the same as posing as a Goddess for an ancient Roman. Can you imagine watching Rose in a Winnie the Pooh bedsheet Toga! Both Roman hygiene and their treatment of their slaves really bothers Rose. She thought of her own life at sixteen, GCSE’s, falling in love, dropping out of school and leaving home…it all ended in heartbreak and disaster of course but at least it was living. Rose is slightly nervous about eating a Roman meal but after living with her mum for most of her life she reckoned she could cope with virtually anything down the food line. To the setting sun, the time between where Rose was now and where Rose came from was no more than a blink. To Rose who had seen the both the dawn of humanity and the very end of the Earth it suddenly seemed like an eternity. In a way Rose has achieved a kind of immortality, in 2000 years she would be born and in 200,000 years she’ll be on a space station fighting Daleks and a long time after that she would watch the Earth die. Shareen and Rose got pissed one evening, planning to go to Danny Fennel’s party and they both fell asleep and missed out. Mickey admits that Rose was too good for him and that he didn’t deserve her. He thought he was the luckiest man alive to have her and when she went off with the Doctor he thought she had finally seen through him, realising that she was a winner and he was a loser. Mickey is described as a puppy that has been kicked. I loved the scenes of Rose trying to figure out what her own unconscious wishes have prevented. You have got to love Rose’s imagination, she has a chance to dream up anything into reality and she begins with a bag of chips! Rose worryingly asserts that everything she is experiencing from now is all a product of GENIE’s poking around in her mind! Its wonderful that Rose left a few bits for the Doctor to sort out because she didn’t want him to think she was taking over!

Twists: Rome has a population of a million and Rose compares the market place to Oxford Street at Christmas. Gracilis’ son has gone missing and there is a woman who can tell the future – are the two related? Vanessa knows about Hadrian’s Wall that won’t be built for another years and two places that won’t be named for a few hundred years. Ursus is somehow turning people in real statues. The Doctor realises that he was never meant to find Rose’s statue in the past otherwise she would never have been in the museum in the first place as a catalyst to send them to Rome in the first place! Vanessa simply wished to be in Ancient Rome and abracadabra…she was! Is turning slaves into pieces of art more humane than having them slaughtered in the arena, an interesting point. The reason the Doctor couldn’t find Rose was because he was always going to go back and save her before he started looking! GENIE is a Genetically Engineered Neural Imagination Engine that brought Vanessa to Rome from the future and gave Ursus the ability to create statues with his bear hands. In order to time travel again GENIE needs the intake of 1,718,902 dead bodies! I love all the ‘its hardly my fault if people aren’t precise with their wishes’ scenes, being able to make wish is really made out to be both a blessing and
a curse. Chapter fifteen where the wishing all gets out of hand with naked dancers, concubines, fake Emperors, babies and Rose wishing that both her and Vanessa are safe and everybody disappearing! Through logical progression Rose manages to figure out that GENIE doesn’t have the ability to shape reality but is able to alter the perceptions of the wisher so it appears that they have come true. Just with the prototype GENIE’s things got out of control, spreading all over the planet, the creators failing to consider the strength of envy. Humans are never satisfied and they wound up wishing the planet to death so they went back in time to stop themselves inventing them in the first place. At the climax they have 8 hours to get the phial to the earlier Doctor…but it’ll take 20 hours from where they are so they have to get to the TARDIS and go back in time 12 hours to make sure everything goes smoothly!

Funny Bits:
· It takes Rose a little while to realise she is wading around in Roman piss!
· We have the Doctor’s David by Michelangelo, Rose – Next Top Model and Rose Tyler, Warrior Barbie Doll!
· ‘I remember this brilliant one. There was this bloke, a musician, and he thought he was there to play to the crowd. Then halfway through some tune they let the animals out. He thought it was a mistake and he’s running around, trying to get them to let him out but of course they don’t. So he tries charming the beasts with his playing like he’s Orpheus in the Underworld.’ ‘Did it work?’ ‘Nah, reckon the lion what got him wasn’t much of music lover.’
· ‘Excuse me madam have you seen my as?’
· Mickey on the Doctor: ‘Are man skirts in this season?’
· 'You better not have signed my bottom!’

Result: Jac Rayner is back and has written another brilliant ray of sunshine. The Stone Rose was an absolute delight, not only a fun visit back to Ancient Rome but also a terrific puzzle book that sets up an impossible situation and has great fun trying to get out of it. Both the Doctor and Rose are written out from the action for a while which leaves the other to shine brighter than ever. The first half of the book is quite relaxed but the second half turns absolutely mental with reality twisting around on a sixpence and Rayner having great fun with Rose’s slips of the tongue (oo-er!). People who bemoan that the New Series Adventures are lacking should fuck off and go and read a stodgy, perverted New Adventure – Doctor Who novels have rarely been this fun before and enjoyable as this: 8/10