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The Doctor Who Storybook 2009

featuring Paul Magrs, James Moran, Mark Gatiss, Gareth Roberts, Clayton Hickman, Keith Temple, Nicholas Pegg, Gary Russell and Jonathan Morris.

(Art by Rob Davis)

This book could easily be dismissed as just a kids' cash-in book from its cover but, as follows the old saying, you'd be misjudging it.  It is in fact an anthology of seven prose short stories and one comic strip featuring the Tenth Doctor (as played by David Tennant) and his companion Donna Noble.  What makes this particularly interesting is that many of the stories are written by writers who've worked on episodes of the TV series itself. 

Here the Doctor faces such trials as a hostile theme park, a floating city, an old enemy, the disappearance of Emperor Qin Shi Huang, an apologetic artificial intelligence, the voyage of the Argonauts, a schoolboy vital to the Norman invasion and a lost alien hiding in a school.

It's a mixed bag on offer, as you'd expect, but I have to say all of the stories did a great job of capturing the Doctor's manic enthusiasm.  My favourite story by far was 'Cold' by Mark Gatiss (of League of Gentlemen and Sherlock fame), a writer whose scriptwork I have long enjoyed.  'Cold' is told through letters written by the protagonists and builds up the layers of the story in the manner of the 19th Century gothic literature that both I and Gatiss are fans of.  Added to this classic style of storytelling is the fact that the alien invader featured will be familiar to those who remember the pre-Christopher Ecclestone days of Doctor Who.

3 out of 5

 

The Wizards Of Odd

featuring Terry Pratchett, Lord Dunsany, John Collier, Henry Kuttner, Eric Frank Russell, Ray Bradbury, Philip K. Dick, Ursula K. Le Guin, Stephen Donaldson, F. Anstey, James Branch Cabell, Fredric Brown, Fritz Leiber, Robert Bloch, Brian W. Aldiss, Avram Davidson, Douglas Adams, H. G. Wells, C. S. Lewis, Reginald Bretnor, Arthur C. Clarke, Isaac Asimov, Larry Niven and Kurt Vonnegut Jr.

A mixed bag of short stories here, ranging from the excellent to the excrement, which really fell short of my expectations considering the who's who of writing talent included.  Also, for the most part, the book's claim to 'comic tales of fantasy' is unfounded; there's not much fantasy and even less comedy. 

The real treat in this compilation is the short additions to well-established series, such as Le Guin's Earthsea, Leiber's Lankhmar and Adams' Hitch-Hiker's Guide.  Also, my personal favourite is the Discworld City Watch story which involves a hilarious, and typically Pratchett, take on the old Punch and Judy shows. 

Ultimately, however, this anthology contains just too much pointless dross to be worth the money.

2 out of 5