Mortimore, Jim


3 out of 5

(1 book)

Doctor Who: Beltempest

Book seventeen of the Eighth Doctor (Paul McGann) Adventures.  The Doctor and his companion Sam Jones arrive in the Bel system to discover it in the grip of huge gravitational upheaval.  Millennia earlier the system's dying red star was mysteriously revitalised but now it is causing shockwaves which threaten billions of lives.  Whilst the Doctor tries to save the system and get to grips with intentions of three almost-unfathomable alien species, Sam is caught with the refugees and encounters a man who claims to be immortal and who wants to share his immortality with the people.

This book suffers from the surprisingly common problem of trying to be cleverer than it actually is.  Mortimore simply tries to cram too much into the book and is never able to satisfyingly develop any of the ideas; be it Sam's religious dilemma, lifeforms older than the galaxies, the political fallout of a system-wide catastrophe or the Doctor's moral conundrum of whether he can or should interfere.  It makes the book very messy and unfocused and all of these things are resolved very unsatisfactorily in the last dozen pages or so.  Frankly, a poor pay-off for the reader.

But there are things to enjoy here too.  The Doctor and Sam being separated by their arrival on a moon on the brink of destruction leads to a nice pair of storylines in which the Doctor has to face the challenges of the wider catastrophe, whilst Sam has to deal with the ground-level problems faced by desperate refugees.  Honestly, if this book had just been about these characters trying to save as many people as they could amid a cataclysmic natural disaster, it would've been about ten times more enjoyable.  As it is, it just tries to do too much and the exciting and engaging story it could've been gets lost in the mix.  Those early scenes do get it bumped up from a two-out-of-five to a three, though.

3 out of 5


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