The Nightmare of Black Island
|ISBN||0 563 58650 3|
|Synopsis: On a lonely stretch of Welsh coastline, a fisherman is killed by a hideous creature from beneath the waves. When the Doctor and Rose arrive, they discover a village where the children are plagued by nightmares, and the nights are ruled by monsters. Bronwyn Ceredig, the old woman of the village, suspects that ailing industrialist Nathaniel Morton is to blame, but the Doctor has suspicions of his own.|
A Review by John Seavey 18/9/07
I did some catching up on my Doctor Who reading over the last week or so, and thus have insights and opinions (well, mostly opinions) on the latest batch or two of Doctor Who novels.
By this point, just Mike Tucker's name on the spine of a Doctor Who book fills my soul with existential dread, the sort of feeling a comic book fan gets when they see "Art by Rob Liefeld" or a movie fan gets when they see "Directed by Uwe Boll". So it's pretty safe to say that a big chunk of my enjoyment of this book came from plain and simple lowered expectations.
But, that said, it's not bad. Freed from a need to be "literary", Tucker can just concentrate on writing an enjoyable action-horror mystery featuring the Doctor and Rose, and include plenty of spooky monsters, evil aliens, and mysterious mansions. It's nothing but an entertaining run-around, but after getting several non-entertaining run-arounds from Tucker, it's a serious step up. (And I did get a chuckle from the "guard duck" bit. But maybe I was just in a goofy mood.)
Oh, the Horror! by Andrew Feryok 19/1/16
I haven't enjoyed a Tenth Doctor book like this in a while! Many have dismissed this book as just a typical gothic horror Doctor Who runaround, and in many ways that is what we get here. In fact, you could change this to the Fourth Doctor and Sarah Jane, and it would fit in quite well with the Hinchcliffe/Holmes era. You could even imagine this as a Fifth Doctor and Nyssa story after his wonderful turn in Goth Opera. However, Mike Tucker (working away from his writing partner and the Seventh Doctor and Ace for a change) inserts enough continuity references that you are never in doubt which era this book takes place.
I think Mike Tucker has nailed the Tenth Doctor and Rose the best of all the initial authors so far. He plays down their cliquey laughing at the world attitude that made them annoying during Tennant's first season and instead makes them competent investigators. The Doctor in particular is wonderful! Yes, he does have some moments of babbling nonsense at fifty miles an hour and making modern references, but at least he isn't romancing anyone or being portrayed as an unstoppable lonely god! In fact, he's shown to be fallible and making things up as he goes along which seems to be more in keeping with the Second or Eleventh Doctors. However, having a more vulnerable Tenth Doctor makes the story all the more tense and raises the stakes of the story considerably because you are no longer sure if the Doctor is going to make it out okay. And his flippant humor is used to diffuse the scary atmosphere when appropriate. And just as Jacqueline Rayner did in the wonderful The Stone Rose, Rose is allowed to be an equally competent investigator who is willing to sneak into the Rectory and face up to the alien threat completely alone from the Doctor. In fact, she often reminded me of Romana or Sarah Jane Smith in her independence and ability to think on her feet and take on alien threats just as competently as the Doctor. I wish Rose could always be written like this!
We also get some nice supporting characters such as the young girl Ali who serves as Rose's "companion" for much of the story and probably would have made a good traveling companion. We also have her parents who run the local pub and who seem genuinely concerned for their child. I thought it was a masterstroke when Rose brings Ali back safely to her upset parents only to turn around and ask them to put her in danger again since she is the key to solving the problem in the lighthouse. There is also the batty local lunatic Bronwyn who is hiding a secret that is key to the mystery and serves the Doctor's "companion" for much of the story. I thought the ultimate revelation of her mystery wasn't as good as the buildup but it does at least make sense.
Then we have Nathaniel Morton and Ms. Payne, who are our villains. Morton makes for a wonderful, wheelchair-bound, ranting mad scientist, and Ms. Payne has a nice double entendre name that fits who she really is underneath. The alien Cynrogs who are at the heart of the mystery really aren't that interesting. The idea of a militarized church has been done on TV during the Eleventh Doctor's era and I couldn't help imagining the Cynrogs in the form of the new series' Silurians.
Where the story excels though is in its atmosphere and mood. Right from the start, it sets you in the mood for a ghost story in a haunted village complete with haunted lighthouse and haunted Rectory complete with a mad scientist lab straight out of Universal Horror movies and an English village living in terror straight out of Hammer Horror. The atmosphere of dread, tension, horror and mystery is built up so well that just the act of Rose going down a dark tunnel became one of the scariest experiences in the book! That shows a master author doing a fantastic job manipulating his audience into the mood that he wants and exploiting it to the maximum.
Balor is also an interesting idea even if he is a bit of a rip-off of Scaroth from City of Death. However, the realization of Balor is wonderful and when he bursts out and starts climbing on the roof of the Rectory, it reminded me of many classic Who stories such as The Seeds of Doom or The Power of Kroll where the story ends on a giant monster crawling on the roof! And the idea that Balor is a resurrecting god from the Cynrogs reminds me of many gothic horror stories like Pyramids of Mars, The Hand of Fear and The Talons of Weng-Chiang.
On the whole, this was a marvelous story that once it got going had me absolutely riveted from cover to cover and stands out as a fantastic start to the year's second set of three books. If Mike Tucker writes this well on his own, I would definitely like to see more from him in the future!