THIS STORY TAKES
PLACE BETWEEN THE
NOVELS "THE SLEEP OF
REASON" AND "TO THE
OFFICIAL BBC 'EIGHTH
RELEASED IN OCTOBER
There is no such thing
as a good night.
You may think THAT
you can hide away in
dreams. Safely tucked
up in bed, nothing can
Whilst his stories can sometimes be a little too traditional for their own good, one thing that Trevor Baxendale has always excelled at is conveying horror and gore in all its grisly ugliness, and here he wields his special skill with a force that outdoes even The Janus Conjunction. The Deadstone Memorial is a lovesong to the horror genre, paying homage to many of the greats (The Exorcist, The Shining); some of the not-so-greats (The Blair Witch Project); and even the most abominable movie of them all, Mary Poppins. It’s hardly a conv-entional recipe this time.
However, what makes this book stand out from the majority of the author’s earlier offerings
is the strength of its characterisation. As with Easter of Wasps, this tale’s terrors do not feel wanton or meaningless as the reader is able to fully invest in the ensemble forced to bear them. The McKeown family, on whom the plot hangs, are an instantly relatable bunch who draw the reader right into the heart of their recognisable little world before the lights go out and the savage bloodletting commences.
The novel’s opening is especially effective as the narrative focuses on the bad dreams of a young boy, and the stranger who, under the guise of a handily-placed medic, waltzes into his home to put its “deathless horrors” to rights. Not only does this scenario encapsulate what the series is about and exactly who its lead character is, foreshadowing future episodes the calibre of The Girl in the Fireplace, but it also builds upon the previous novel’s portrayal of the Doctor as a man who cares about everyone, including all the “little people”. It does not matter whether he’s saving the manifold multiverse or trying to put a stop the nightmares of one ordinary boy – he’s a romantic, gallant hero, and here Baxendale paints him with all the panache of Paul McGann’s television portrayal. He even has a single mum swooning.
The companions don’t
fare quite as well here,
though neither of them
is neglected. In lifting
the veil on Trix – or
should I say Patricia?
– a little higher, the
author only muddies
the waters, leaving his
the veracity of even her half-Hitch-Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy handle. However, at the same time he still manages
to soften her persona further, particularly in her scenes with Fitz. For his part, Mr Kreiner is afforded some development, ruminating on recent events and questioning just how far his friendship with the Doctor has left to run, setting up the events of The Gallifrey Chronicles beautifully.
However, for everything that it does well, The Deadstone Memorial really falls down when it comes to plot. Whereas those readers who like nothing more than to throw themselves into the pages of a dark and gruesome fantasy won’t be disappointed with this book, they aren’t likely to be surprised by it, and even those less familiar with the genre are likely to see it for the hotchpotch of reprocessed set pieces that it is. This feeling of unoriginality is then exac-erbated by the many thematic similarities to the preceding, and much more inventive, novel, Martin Day’s Sleep of Reason.
But as Trevor Baxendale novels go, The Deadstone Memorial isn’t bad. Both the down-to-earth characterisation and the “Mary Poppins meets The Shining” billing demonstrate the author’s intention to leave behind the traditional staples that typified his earlier works, and although both are later eschewed by the flagrant descent into pulp horror, this adventure still houses some of Baxendale’s most engaging and provocative passages to date.
Copyright © E.G. Wolverson 2011
E.G. Wolverson has asserted his right under the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act, 1988 to be identified as the author of this work.
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