Monday, August 10, 2015

The Drosten's Curse by A.L. Kennedy, 2015

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From award-winning author A.L. Kennedy, an original Doctor Who novel featuring the beloved Fourth Doctor, as played by Tom Baker.
“I shall make you the jewel at the heart of the universe.”
Something distinctly odd is going on in Arbroath. It could be to do with golfers being dragged down into the bunkers at the Fetch Brothers’ Golf Spa Hotel, never to be seen again. It might be related to the strange twin grandchildren of the equally strange Mrs Fetch--owner of the hotel and fascinated with octopuses. It could be the fact that people in the surrounding area suddenly know what others are thinking, without anyone saying a word.
(368 pages)

This is the first book I've DNF'd in a very long time, and I'm heartbroken to do so. I came into The Drosten's Curse with an open mind, ready and willing to fall in love with this new medium of Doctor Who (having previously only watched the actual TV show). Unfortunately, I just couldn't do it. I stopped reading at page 150, and then skipped to the end to read the last few chapters - the writing style careened between "fan-fiction" and "Agatha-Christie-wannabe," and just became so painful I couldn't continue.

A lot of that had to do with the characters. Bryony is supposed to be this great, clever, strong heroine like the ones on the show (Rose, Martha, Donna, etc.), but she feels incredibly two-dimensional. Her pluckiness is really the only thing even slightly appealing about her - and it feels just a little too forced. I was excited at the beginning when she was introduced as a European History major (because, hey! I love European History!), but Kennedy completely avoids using this to actually give Bryony a personality, besides a few perfunctory references to Richelieu that really don't add anything to the story besides giving a tiny bit of credibility to Bryony's claim of having majored in history.

Putta was my favorite character. If all the other characters had been done as well as he was, the book would have been okay enough for me to actually read to the end. He was very endearing (though, if I'm being extra nit-picky, there was a rather over-the-top "this is a character you're supposed to find endearing" feel to him), and I did wish him a happy ending.

But what about the Doctor? Yikes. Just, yikes. I haven't watched much of Tom Baker-era Doctor Who, but I've seen enough to get the flavor and this just wasn't it. I mean sure, there were the perfunctory Jelly Babies scattered throughout the book, and a few references to his big scarf and wild hair, but being inside his head just didn't work at all. You're never inside the Doctor's head in the TV episodes, so I can't say this for sure, but I'm 99.99% positive that the Doctor's thought process wouldn't be anything like the way it's depicted in The Drosten's Curse. Kennedy would have been better off just staying out of his head altogether, because the scenes told from his POV are just - well, they're painful. Very painful. And I decided to DNF the book during one of those scenes.

So yeah, I definitely don't recommend this book to anyone. Who would recommend a book they couldn't even bring themselves to finish, anyway? If you've never seen Doctor Who but are curious about it, then please, I beg of you, go watch the actual TV show instead!

Disclaimer: I received a free copy of this book through the Blogging for Books program in exchange for an honest review.

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