By: Justin Richards
Release Date: October 25, 2016
Publisher: Penguin Books, Limited (UK)
Received From: Publisher
(All reviews are our own, honest opinions.)
It’s been quite some time since Doctor Who has aired, and the Christmas Special is still several weeks off. I, like many of you, have been completely Doctor Who starved these last months. But never fear! There’s something to tide us over until Christmas.
Doctor Who: The American Adventures released on October 25, 2016. And I have some mixed feelings about it.
The book itself is a collection of short stories about the Doctor, all of which are set in America during various time periods and historical events. However, it is not immediately obvious who the author is. There is only one place where the work is properly attributed to author: a small line on the copyrights page which reads ‘Written by Justin Richards’.
I found the lack of obvious inclusion of the author, well, odd. Usually the author is listed on the cover. If not, it is at least easily found on the title page. Yet, even here there was no author attribute to be found.
Something else to note is that this book is aimed at middle grade readers, specifically children 9 to 12 years of age. Now, I have no issue with this. In fact, I tend to like middle grade novels better than many young adult novels (no real reason, just personal preference). This is something that may not be immediately obvious to all readers when first picking up the book, however, and can leave people guessing as to dialogue and style choices when reading. The title page is headed with the title ‘BBC Children’s Books’, though, and the book does bare the Puffin logo. (Puffin being the children’s imprint of Penguin. Again, while present, this may not be immediately obvious to most readers).
On to the actual stories!
This wasn’t my first Doctor Who novel; I’ve read several in the past. All were aimed at adults, though, and none were anthologies as this one. There are a total of six short stories within this book. All are set in America during various times such as The Oregon Trail to World War II to modern times – a good range of times and places with something for everyone.
The first story, “All That Glitters”, is set during the California gold rush. This is, by far, the weakest of the stories. The two characters we are first introduced to, Josh and Jesse, aren’t particularly interesting, and the plot isn’t quite as exciting as other stories. Another, larger issue is that the Doctor is rather lackluster. All personality is inexplicably missing.
This is an issue which does permeate all of the short stories found within this book. While the character is definitely identifiable as The Doctor, he lacks further personality. Were it not for the twelfth Doctor pictured on the cover I would have really struggled to identify which Doctor was being presented. Now, while the Doctor is supposed to be able to change – actors, personalities, etc. – and still remain decidedly him, the character feels rather flat without the more readily identifiable personality of one distinct incarnation of the Doctor or another.
From here, the stories do get better. New characters are, largely, more memorable. The stories are also much more reminiscent of the more typical middle of the season standalone stories found in any season of Doctor Who (since the 2005 reboot, at least). There are still some issues. Motivations of some of the antagonists are simplified or never fully explained, the Doctor instead skipping out before anything is quite fully wrapped up. The last story, “Base of Operations”, probably felt the most Whovian both story and character wise out of the entire bunch.
While there are some issues presented within Doctor Who: The American Adventures, the book was still an enjoyable read overall. It’s short, quick, fun, and appeals to a wide range of ages. If you are a fan of Doctor Who, of if you know someone between 9 and 12 who is a fan of Doctor Who, you might want to pick up a copy and give it a read.
You are suffering from Doctor Who withdrawal, you like Doctor Who stories, you like short stories, you enjoy middle grade fiction
Don't Read If:
You don't like middle grade fiction, you want more personality in your characters, you don't like short stories