Shell Shock

by Simon A Forward

Telos, 2003

I seem to have given several books poor reviews of late. I'm not really a grumpy person. I much prefer to write good reviews, so thank heavens for Simon A. Forward and Telos!

While I enjoyed "Drift", it suffered from first novel syndrome: strong imagery floated over erratic pacing. "Shell Shock" takes a few pages to get into its stride (not something you can really afford in a novella format), but it is an engrossing story once it gets there. One of the strongest Who books of the year so far, it is in its thematic richness that "Shell Shock" stands out as it explores memory and self, relationships and responsibility.

"Shell Shock" is, at heart, a great story. It is not a story about the Doctor, but a story in which he has a crucial role. It is not a story about Peri, but one that casts an interesting light on her character. It does everything my recent Enlightenment article argued past Doctor stories can do!

Forward does a 'Jim Mortimore' on Peri, or perhaps it is more a "Swamp Thing" allusion. It is a very different approach to the recent "Blue Box" and I am not entirely convinced by it, but it certainly gives the book some impact. Nor should Forward's Doctor be overlooked as the author shows us a very human, yet still alien, 6th Doctor. However, "Shell Shock" is more a story about the crabs and their mentor. Forward uses a hard SF idea to explore his themes, an engaging prose style allowing the reader to connect with an alien setting, while twists in the plot continue to surprise all the way to the epilogue. The Dr Who context provides a way in to the narrative, while Forward reflects the experiences of the supporting cast in those of the TARDIS crew.

Henry Potts, 9 Jul 2003

Originally posted to the Jade Pagoda mailing list.

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