The Art of Destruction
By DJ Forrest
Written by Stephen Cole
For BBC Books
First published 2006
10th Doctor with Rose Tyler
The story is set in 22nd century Africa, in the shadow of a dormant volcano. There are a group of agricultural scientists growing new foodstuffs to feed the starving millions in the basking heat. The Doctor and Rose land on the planet after picking up an alien signal close by. But, as the Doctor and Rose enter the field where the new crops are, they encounter men with guns and it takes a lot of fast talking to persuade the riflemen that they’re not stealing crops, or from any camp.
There’s also something quite wrong inside the dormant volcano. Deep inside one of the chambers lies something alien, and when it’s threatened, begins taking the wildlife hostage and manipulates it for its own use – and not just the wildlife, either.
This novel could work quite easily without the intervention of the Doctor and quite a few times I almost wished it hadn’t been a Who story. There were often times where I became a little frustrated with how easy the Doctor handled situations and there’s often too many times when the sonic screwdriver saves the day – as if it explained a moment when the author couldn’t.
I’ve read a lot of Stephen Cole’s novels now and this one was possibly the hardest to get into at first, because it didn’t feel like a Who story at all. Of course, when you picture the two warring alien factions, then it does begin to feel Who like, and I don’t think I can ever look at another earthworm in quite the same way ever again. Thanks Stephen!
That said, I really enjoyed the characters, the good guys and the bad guy come good. It was also great to read a story based on Earth but in another part of the world, rather than the UK. The action was there. I could smell the earth and could picture the scene as the earthworm characters began to fire back at the escaping humans.
I did get a little lost in one part of the story near the end, where the team with the Doctor, or with Rose, had to retrieve something, which was I think later taken back by the earthworm creatures with weapons on their shoulders. Cool piece of kit – hence why I can never look at an earthworm in quite the same fashion.
A lot of Who stories are fairly easy to follow from the first chapter, indeed some from the first page, but this took a bit of time to suss the characters and draw any kind of attachment to them. Towards the middle and near the end, the story picked up pace and everything began to make a lot of sense, and you had to feel for the female member of the agricultural team. You can tell from the writing that Stephen spent time building strong characters in the scientists at the base, and how their lives had changed since working to grow foodstuffs to feed the starving. My favourite character would have to be Solomon.
Rose and the Doctor tired me out however, from their moments of capture to their ultimate release. I wondered if they would ever find the peace required to send the worms packing and save the planet, and with too few pages left, it did seem as if a Part Two was needed, but as all good stories go, the author managed to wrap it up well – it wasn’t rushed – it all came good in the end.