THIS STORY TAKES
PLACE AFTER THE
NOVEL "WHITE DARK-
NESS" AND PRIOR
TO THE CONCURRENT
OFFICIAL VIRGIN 'NEW
RELEASED IN JULY 1993.
There is something on
SOMETHING THAT steals
minds and memories.
SOMETHING THAT IS
Something that can
reach out to the
capital, Tairngaire –
where the newest
exhibit iS a blue box
surmounted by a
On the face of it, this doesn’t really have a lot going for it. An average cover, a jaded title, an average blurb, and a novelist that no-one’s ever heard of. Yet, against all the odds, Christopher Bulis’ Shadowmind somehow manages to be a thoroughly entertaining little book. It’s not going to set the world on fire, but I certainly feel that I’ve had my money’s worth.
The first thing that struck me about Shadowmind was that it is almost entirely about the Doctor, Ace and Bernice. When the story commences, it isn’t long until we hear from the three regulars, and from that point forward they’re always right at the heart of what’s going on. Many of these New Adventures suffer from having chapter after chapter focusing solely on the supporting characters and, even although they’re invariably well-written, they’re not really what I buy a Doctor Who novel for.
I also found Bulis’ aliens refreshingly different. Here we have the Umbra, a powerful but childlike entity who’s making a race of intelligent rodents, the Shenn, use human duplicates (which they “pilot” from inside) to burn down trees and create “shadowforms” - essentially physical manifestations of its consciousness.
The Shenn are the more
intriguing of the two. Their
species being made up of
physically separate entities,
each linked through a Borg-
like hive mind, is far from
being original, but the fact that they’re not humanoid or non-corporeal really makes them stand out from run-of-the-mill Who aliens. I also found the difference in scale between the Shenn and the humans particularly unusual and effective.
The story us well-paced, the action taking place through three different locations in rapid succession. Bulis uses Ace as the driving force for his narrative - through her we follow the action from the New Byzantium colony where she engages in a naked fire fight with some duplicates, to Arden where makes first contact with the Shenn, and finally to the starship Broadsword where she is faced with a dilemma that serves as a coda to all that she has been through since the events on Heaven. It’s beautifully done.
However, Shadowmind certainly won’t be to every reader’s liking. In particular, purists may have a problem with Ace spending about a third of the novel in the nude, the flagrant gratuity of this only being outdone by the story’s sheer level of gore. Once again the New Adventures graphically depict limbs being traumatically severed, bodies being mangled, and some other really quite horrific imagery. This ain’t Target.
Personally, my only gripe with Shadowmind is Bulis’ understated Doctor. The book’s fleeting reference to the Earth-Draconia peace negotiated by the third Doctor in 2540 is quite telling as the Doctor that we see in Shadowmind (putting the pieces of the puzzle together with the military and offering his services as an ambassador of peace) seems to bear much more of a resemblance to Jon Pertwee’s incarnation of the Doctor than to Sylvester McCoy’s. This might just be a symptom of post-Lucifer Rising uncertainty, but it does take the sparkle off an otherwise impressive debut effort.
A rollercoaster novel full of incident, it’s hard not be rapt by Shadowmind. For somebody who spends his time as, to quote the cover, “a designer, artist and illustrator”, Christopher Bulis has certainly illustrated his aptitude for telling a good old-fashioned Doctor Who story in the New Adventures spirit, and I look forward to hearing more from him.
Copyright © E.G. Wolverson 2006
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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