The Adventuress of Henrietta Street
BBC Books
Camera Obscura

Author Lloyd Rose Cover image
ISBN 0 563 53857 0
Published 2002

Synopsis: From a seance in Victorian London to a wild pursuit on Dartmoor, the Doctor and his companions work frantically to unravel the mystery of the latest threat to Time. Before Time itself unravels.


Lonely hearts by Joe Ford 6/8/02

Time travel. There's no denying it's playing a HUGE role in the books of late. Going back as far as The Adventuress of Henrietta Street we have been reminded what a dangerous concept it is after 30 odd years of it being forgottern (give or take the odd Space Museum and Day of the Daleks). The exploration of this theme has lead to horror (Anachrophobia), humour (Mad Dogs and Englishmen) and drama (History 101). Things are stepped up to a whole new level with Camera Obscura as we get to see first hand some of the damage being caused by the dissapearance of the Time Lords and the threat that emerged in their aftermath. Namely (and this is no spoiler 'cause his name is on the blurb) Sabbath.

And what can I say except that it's fucking excellent. I'm not one for swearing a whole lot but some weight needed to be added to that wow to describe how impressed I was with Lloyd Rose's latest effort. I was perhaps one of the only people who wasn't as blown away by her debut novel. Sure it was good, the writing was evocative and the characters worked but it seemed a little ponderous and disjointed for me and I wasn't that impressed with the ending either. Well whatever she failed to ignite in me before has been rectified completely because this was a roller coaster ride I couldn't get off (bought it this morning, finished it this evening, didn't cook the dinner because I couldn't put it down and am now in deep trouble!!!).

Big sweeping events happen in this book. It's definitely arc driven and I would go as far as to say that its the most important book since Henrietta Street or possibly even Escape Velocity. What places this above these two is how it places such gravity, such importance on these events while still telling things vividly through the eyes of its characters.

The setting, the Victorian era, is absolutely thick with atmosphere. There is one scene on the streets that Lloyd shows us through Anji's eyes and it just comes ALIVE! I could see everything she was describing perfectly, not like I was reading a book at all. I rarely had to work at anything visually in the book, Rose's evocative prose just paints everything so perfectly, and considering the amgiuous shades of the book its appropriately moody too. Much like City of the Dead, the locations are as much characters themselves.

Much like History 101 this is not a simple book. It demands a great deal of concentration from the reader (and more than a little intelligence too!) and I really appreciate how thought provoking and complicated the books have been as late. Oh, it's easy to read a mindless (and diabolically bad) runaround like Warmonger with its cartoon space battles, daft monsters and corridors but when you have to work at a book, to remember clues from earlier on or get lost hopelessly in the middle... that makes it more of an EXPERIENCE. And Camera Obscura is quite an experience. The rewards come thick and fast in the last third, I had lots figured out but huge twists still surprised me. I really feel Justin Richards is treating his EDA readers like intelligent adults and not just kids who love the spacefights and gadgetery!

The Doctor. Just wow. Scrap Henrietta Street, scrap Intelligent Tigers (brilliant as they are) this is the best portrayal of the Doctor since Father Time and no mistake! We get such an access to his thoughts in this, his fears, his vulnerabilities, his vast intelligence and his monumental views on his adventures and it just amazing to read. Forced to work with Sabbath we get a vastly entertaining spin on this thoughtful partnership with too many memorable moments to count. This is a deeply personal book for the Doctor and for us too as we have never seen him in quite the same light before and I certainly never will again! Certainly the lengths he goes to to save the day in the last third will be talked about for some time. I haven't seen drama and humour driven out of our hero in such a way in ages. And gosh golly wow he's even viscously unlikable in a few standout scenes which should prove to any doubters that he hasn't lost his bite.

But what of Fitz and Anji, forced to watch as the Doctor goes from one injury to another. Anji's fears come across as especially real considering what she has seen him go through in the past ten or so books. Her gut reaction is to leave this world of horror behind but her love for her friends forces her to stay. This is incredible development, Anji's thoughts for the Doctor and especially Fitz have changed so since her initial appearance and there is a palpable feeling of friendship between them now. It's not spelt out like much of the Virgin output, it's just there as they look out for each other and it's quite warming to feel. Fitz and Anji's moments alone are astonishing and quite obviously build up for Time Zero, Justin Richards' following novel.

Each chapter throws the book in frightening new directions. Some of the chapter endings are just nail biting. Two chapters stand out, Five and Seventeen, as mini masterpieces of writing, easily as phenomenal as my favourite chapter in Who fiction ever (you know, Seeing I, Sam gets a life!). Five is just so detailed and fun, amongst all the horrors of the book Fitz and Anji take some time out. That it is full of wonder and beauty and yet ends with Anji in jeans watching Absolutely Fabulous just adds to its brilliance. And chapter Seventeen is the scariest piece of Who writing I have read since Grave Matter, where Peri was attacked by all those frightening animals. The Doctor's desperation is chilling in the extreme.

Every book in this range just seems to be getting better and better. I am waiting for that seriosu disapointment that MUST be round the corner. Surely they cannot keep this quality up forever?

Camera Obscura is dripping with emotion, vivid and terrifying. It's a glorious Doctor piece and has a location other authors would die for. It presents amazing, range strengthening developments. And it has a real sense of humour too. Congratulations Lloyd Rose, you've written the best Who novel in years.

Supplement 9/4/03:

I summed up this book as the best Doctor Who book in years and little changes on reading it a second time. Lets look around at the media to here what they say... TV Zone offer up an 8/10 saying "Lloyd Rose has as good a grasp on the Doctor as Lance Parkin and Kate Orman and the setting takes on a character on its own." SFX are as kind as ever giving the book ***** out of ***** saying "Lloyd Rose has an amazing talent in structuring her prose and that so many Doctor Who books have come before this and it manages to do something audacious." Even that guy at DWM (who I strongly agree on nearly every book) says "this is a superb novel." High praise indeed.

My love of this novel comes down to three things. The setting, Victorian London is a most fascinating period and one I would like to see the Doctor visit more and more. Two, the Doctor/Sabbath scenes which after three or four books of the villain hanging about on the sidelines he finally takes action. These moments between them, we see them both at their best, the Doctor more resourceful than ever (and utterly childish too which is just wonderful) and Sabbath losing his grip on his emotion in a violent and frightening way. And three, the ending which after a heart stopping revelation in the last third threatens to be anti-climatic but Rose pulls a rabbit out of her hat at the last minute as the Doctor finally confronts his past in a most memorable fashion.

Not forgetting the number of funny and eccentric characters we meet along the way. Scale is great, slimy and stupid and you feel for him throughout. Miss Jane provides the early chapters with some wonderful scares, its a shame we don't see more of her. Chiltern is gorgeously written, a character I was fully involved with. And of course the delightful carnival folk who may seem a little arbitrary but they certainly full the book with colour.

The steals from The Hound of the Baskevilles are glaringly obvious and yet simply add a touch of nostalgia to the book. The moorland chase in particular is certainly written more vividly than Doyle's version which is not knock the original book as it is a superior work but to show how influences can enrich a piece. Of course being placed where it is time travel is a heavy element of the book to and the way Rose handles the subject within her chosen environment is masterful.

The story jumps location with extreme confidence it is hardly noticeable. As I've said before many scenes are described with such conviction the reader could almost be there themselves.

Rose manages to make the Doctor as vulnerable as we’ve ever seen him in this and to her credit it’s the most readable he’s ever been. He leaves the story exhausted, physically and mentally and if you think he was put through the wringer in Adventuress think again. After the pain he suffers here it would be nice to see him pampered a bit but in truth things just get worse from here on. Rose captures the post-earth arc Doctor’s voice perfectly and he comes across with all the qualities that make him distinctive and so much better than any other literary character. Witty, intelligent, desperate and angry.

The EDA's are more popular right now than they have been in a long time and I have to say the three part historical that stretches from History 101 to TIME ZERO may have a huge part in this sudden reputation. These books most certainly flow into each other well but they also have a unique flavour to them so they can be read induvidually too. They are all written by talented authors who are confident with their writing and the story they tell is full of surprises. And while History 101 and TIME ZERO are both superb books Camera Obscura edges them out in both storytelling and prose.

City of the Dead? Good but overated. Camera Obscura? Magical. Lloyd Rose? Come back soon.

And any book that can get away with the Doctor saying “a bit wankerish”, “The son of a bitch!” and “because he’s an ass!” plus hit Fitz with the statement “Do I have to remind you I could break every bone in your body!” gets my vote every time!!!

A Review by Steve Traylen 21/8/02

(Spoilers only if you haven't read Henrietta Street)

On the face of it this book shouldn't have a lot going for it as it has a lot of the sort of things that have dragged down a lot of previous books.. Sabbath (Check), heart angst (check), time disturbance (check). However in this book all those things are finally done well.

I won't go into too much detail except to say that it's a very important book to the arc as a whole.

Oh it's also very funny in places too, the scene with the hand-drawn map is one of the funniest scenes in Who.

The significance of the front cover is interesting too, kind of an odd choice I thought...

Fitz comes across very maudlin in this book, which kind of leads into all the rumours about Time Zero. I very much suspect it is going to be his book. In CO he befriends a geologist and goes to several lectures on Siberia, and the book ends with them travelling to Siberia (frustratingly no reason is given, I hope it's explained in TZ) and we all know TZ is set, in part at least, in Siberia...

It's interesting how many people on the OG forum seem to want the book spoilt claiming they can't get it in NA (obviously not looking very hard). Don't let this one be spoiled for you. There's a lot of good stuff here.

Can't wait for Time Zero....


A Review by Richard Radcliffe 26/9/02

I have had the most wonderful experience of late with the BBC 8th Doctor book range. Spurred on by rave reviews from all quarters, I began Adventuress of Henrietta Street a month ago. Taking in that book, Anachrophobia, Trading Futures and History 101 I was absolutely riveted by the new character of Sabbath - and the exploits of the Doctor, Fitz and Anji. On reflection Trading Futures can be skipped from this arc, but there is no doubting Camera Obscura's credentials for the arc-list. This takes the arc and pushes it further. There resplendent on my shelf, lies Time Zero - which, I have been told, is the real finish of it all - I can't wait! If Time Zero is as brilliant as Camera Obscura, then I will eat my hat! Surely it can't get better than this, but maybe I am in for yet another sumptuous treat. Camera Obscura is absolutely totally brilliant in every single way I can think of.

Much has been said recently of how well the 8th Doctor fits into the Victorian era. I've said it myself. So many people are saying it, because it is totally true! The key is not just depositing the Doctor in that Historical period, and letting him run, it's what you do with the character when he is there. The era certainly brings out the best in the 8th Doctor, but I really think it also inspires the authors to greater things - that's why we have so many great 8th Doctor books set at that time.

The realization of the Victorian era as presented by Lloyd Rose in this novel is magnificent. I would argue that this is the very best evocation of that era (and there have plenty of brilliant ones) ever presented in a Who novel. As the Doctor tours the nation by train, visits a Liverpool Playhouse, explores Dartmoor, fits into Gentlemen's London, marvels at the wondrous Fairground shows - so an atmosphere is created. The way Lloyd Rose describes such Victorian staples as the Crystal Palace is excellent. It is a book now I have finished, that I want to read again very soon. I really loved being part of this world.

Lloyd Rose captured the TARDIS team of 8th Doctor, Fitz and Anji supremely well in City of the Dead - she does so again here. The interplay between them is marvelous. They are really wonderful characters all. There's a touch of 7th Doctor Time's Champion about the 8th Doctor's refusal to tell Anji and Fitz what's going on - it seems things are reaching confrontation time. The Doctor's actions have a kind of Ace effect of alienating Anji, Fitz is cool with it, but even he is being pushed to the limit of endurance - I can't help but feel the Companions deserve better. There's some lovely passages where both companions evaluate their roles in the Doctors life.

The Doctor is swept along by events in this book, and the apparent lack of control is wonderful. As he moves from one crisis to the next, his emotions run riot - especially towards Sabbath. When the truth emerges about the Doctor's missing Heart, there's so much tension rampant between the two travellers. The confrontation between the two has been building up for a while now. It's marvelous to witness the sparks fly - has the Doctor finally gone too far? Should he really be working with Sabbath at all?

Sabbath is a stunning character. I thought so right from the beginning in Adventuress of Henrietta Street. Then the books used him sparingly, he'd appear with his own agenda - mysterious and magnificent - but very much on the sidelines looking on. Here he is thrust in the limelight - right to the fore of the novel. His companions are always wonderfully warped, a contrast to the Doctor. Here he is aided by a murderer and a psychopath (as the Doctor calls her). Sabbath just attracts these incredibly complex and interesting people. Sabbath is glorious in this novel. He has been building up to this level of involvement, and I am hoping Time Zero gives us the same.

The scenes with the Doctor and Sabbath are wonderful - and there are plenty in this book. They have become joined now, yet it is an alliance with more angles than the Sydney Opera House. This is the best kind of villain for this Doctor - totally brilliant writing. The other major characters in the book are not quite up to that standard - but who is? Chiltern is one of those multi faceted villains - in more ways than one. Octave could and should have been in the book longer too. But I expect more of these 2 would have meant less of Sabbath and the Doctor - and that wouldn't be on, at all.

The level of excellence in Doctor Who Books has reached its peak with Camera Obscura. Lloyd Rose has delivered another brilliant novel - a fantastic story. We have been a really spoiled group, DW fans, in 2002. The Audios continue to excel, and now the 8th Doctor Books have joined them. I got really excited about the Caught on Earth arc, but the Sabbath arc is proving even better. DW has never, ever been better than it is right now. 10/10

A Review by Terrence Keenan 30/10/02

Camera Obscura is carried on the backs of two characters: Sabbath and the Doctor. It is their interaction which drives the novel along. More on this in a bit.

Lloyd Rose's second Doctor Who offering is a bit more of a mix between magick and science than City of the Dead. Using a Victorian England backdrop with conjurors, mediums and carnival folk sets the tone and adds a creepy horror setting to the backdrop. I kept picturing David Lynchıs The Elephant Man in my mind. There are also nods to Hammer Horror films and Sherlock Holmes novels (which are specifically namechecked). It's a proper setting for odd time travel experiments using visual parlor tricks and mirrors.

The prose is wonderful; not showy, but of such a high quality that images and dialogue stick around in the mind while the pages fly in your hands. The number eight is used as a motif: eight mirrors for the time machine, eight Octaves, etc. Rose also leaves no explanation for the fantastical portions of the novel, of which there are many, but not as much as in City of the Dead. The few explanations for the time travel science portion of the novel are tidy and not technobabble. Although character-based, Camera Obscura is also tightly plotted and stays true to the story it wants to tell.

Characters are the key -- the numerous Dr. Chilterns, Constance Jane the medium, Octave, Scale -- all have their moments to shine. Like COTD, Rose gives us a very strong Fitz and Anji, whose interaction with the Doctor and each other sing on the page.

However, the stars of this novel are Sabbath and the Doctor. I am a huge fan of Sabbath. He is without a doubt the best recurring character to show up since Compassion (Gee, both from the mind of Lawrence Miles. Coincidence? I think not.) and unlike her arc, the writers seem to be using Sabbath very well. Sabbath comes across more than ever as dangerous, pragmatic version of the Doctor. Although cold, logical, he does have emotions that come out showing him as human. Rose gives us probably one of the best versions of the post TAC 8th Doctor. He is charming, whimsical, morose, and dark, hiding secrets and coming across as more alien than in any book since The Turing Test. The interaction between the Doctor and Sabbath is unputdownable, reader-wise. It's the old idea of two opposites having to work together for a greater good, and it's spectacular. I defy anyone to find better character interaction in any Doctor Who book previously.

To balance this review out, Rose give the Doctor a serious ass-whupping. I nearly danced on the book when Octave dropped the stage weight on the Doctor's chest, flashbacks of the demon-conjuring scene in COTD. However, there is a point to the violence, a plot thread that runs throughout Camera Obscura, and ends in a spoiler-protected climax at the end.

I also was a bit nonplussed by some of the actions of certain characters at the end of the novel, which didn't seem plausible. However, the actions don't go against the plot or story, so it didn't bother me as much as they could have.

Overall? Camera Obscura is a interesting mix of science and the fantastic, with two strong characters in the lead and atmospheric settings. A huge improvement over the overrated and indulgently written City of the Dead.

Highly recommended.

A Review by Finn Clark 6/11/02

Lloyd Rose's debut novel, City of the Dead, was a big hit with many readers (including me). I sang its praises to the skies, but also noted that much of its appeal lay in its rich evocation of New Orleans and wondered how Lloyd Rose's second novel (set in Victorian England) would fare. Well, now we know. In my opinion, Camera Obscura is... pretty good.

The Victorian setting is well done, though points must be deducted for the annoying in-jokes, with the text drawing attention to Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Sherlock Holmes and even the sodding Blair Witch. Stop it, stop it! It's not big and it's not clever. Most of these references are thankfully confined to the opening chapters, though Sherlock Holmes gets so many namedrops that it's practically a motif. Some are overt (e.g. the Giant Rat of Sumatra, or the Doctor remembering that Hound of the Baskervilles hasn't been published yet) and some are less so (e.g. the TARDIS crew renting 221B Baker Street, with p33 acknowledging The Musgrave Ritual and p89 A Scandal in Bohemia).

Oh, and it's Sir Charles Lyell, not Lyall. But for the most part we believe in the world being explored here, with its subculture of freaks, stage magicians and carnival sideshows. It's not quite as richly textured as something like All-Consuming Fire (alas, the Sherlock references beg that comparison) but it does its job nicely.

In some ways it feels like City of the Dead. Both books contain wild weirdness (especially in the third act), but its cause here is a temporal threat instead of magic. This makes Camera Obscura feel less fresh, temporal strangeness having become almost obligatory in the recent 8DAs, but I guess that was inevitable. Another novel about magic would have suffered from the law of diminishing returns, and at least Lloyd manages to spring a good few surprises on us with her threat to Time. One particular plot development came close to pushing me out of the book, though I suppose long-time Virgin readers might see it as nearly a logical development. It's certainly fresh and startling, which must be a good thing.

However this book really scores with its development of the ongoing 8DA story. Firstly, it's a fabulous use of the Eighth Doctor. Lloyd Rose's portrayal kicks the arse of every other author's to date, bar none. No one else even comes close. His relationship with the circus freaks, with Sabbath... this is all great stuff. Fitz and Anji provide useful points of view on Victorian society, and they even get some character development. And finally Lloyd is the first author since Adventuress of Henrietta Street to pick up Lawrence's ball and run with it. At last Sabbath gets to be something other than Dull Bloke Who Stands In The Background Doing Sod All. A 2002 8DA has made Sabbath interesting! Who'da thunk it? I thought he was great in Henrietta Street, but since then he's felt kinda shoehorned into plots that could have got on happily without him.

At the end of the day, I think I prefer City of the Dead. Lloyd's debut had New Orleans and amazing magic. Those two story elements added so much to the book that any follow-up was always going to have to work like a dog to live up to 'em. Camera Obscura didn't wow me quite as strongly, but it still impressed me. A good book. Recommended.

Four out of Five by Jamas Enright 11/12/02

Lloyd Rose is now my second favourite Eighth Doctor author! (Trevor Baxendale being my favourite.) After the hints of Sabbath we've been getting over the past few books, we finally have an all out adventure where Sabbath is just as integral as the Doctor. This is the proper sequel to The Adventuress of Henrietta Street that we've been waiting for! (Which isn't to decry the books prior to this one, but this deals with events that Lawrence Miles started in a way so that I now don't mind them as much.) There are still many unresolved problems and mysteries, but this is an excellent second step in the arc.

The setting is Nineteenth Century England, and there is more than a touch of Conan Doyle in the atmosphere (as the Doctor himself notes at one point). This is the era when seances were rife, hypnotism was the purview of the stage entertainer, and carnivals were proud of their freak shows. We know this as Lloyd Rose brings it all to life in Camera Obscura so brilliantly, giving each aspect its true telling so that you can really picture the events as they unfold. Even the monster is wonderfully descriptively horrible (although I have to admit I did have small flashbacks to The Mutant on the Bounty).

I always pictured Sabbath as like Sydney Greenstreet, but there is less impression of 'fat' here, just big and speedy, more well-toned. Other than that, this could well be counted as the first proper use of Sabbath, even taking The Adventuress of Henrietta Street into account. Finally we get to see him close up, and finally realise that yes, he can be a proper threat to the Doctor whilst not necessarily his enemy. There are certainly more dynamics there yet to explore.

The Doctor is irrepressibly upbeat, and ready to stick his neck out just find out what is going on. And pays the price. At one point he gets his chest crushed. Another time stabbed directly through the heart. But this doesn't stop him (and indeed this is a major point). Fitz and Anji have lesser roles to play, but still get strong scenes, especially a great moment with Fitz and the Doctor.

The Angel-maker didn't really impress me, she seemed to merely serve the purpose of plot tool, to be able to perform the violent acts required by the story. Octave was fun, and it was a pity that his ending didn't have more oomph. The Chilterns were interesting, with Nathaniel being the easy favourite, although the other one was also a lot of fun to have around. Constance Jane/Millie is again more to help the story along, but is still a well done character.

The final great thing I want to mention, although Lloyd Rose had nothing to do with this (that I'm aware of), is the cover. So realistic, you'd think it was a photograph...

If nothing else, check out the blurb. The story extract alone (from near the very beginning) shows off that this is prose as it should be written, to which many other authors (and I won't exclude myself here) can only aspire to. Camera Obscura, a must read.

A Review by Andrew McCaffrey 2/1/03

Camera Obscura is a very good novel. It's not as good as Lloyd Rose's previous offering, City of the Dead, as it lacks that story's rich attention to detail. On the other hand, while it may be lacking overall in comparison, it has some brilliant individual sequences that surpass the first book, and rival anything seen so far in Doctor Who book fiction. It has a few problems, but what the book does well more than outweighs the novel's few missteps.

I found many passages in Camera Obscura to be completely riveting, surprising and fantastic. There are sequences in which it is absolutely impossible for the reader to attempt to put down the book. And yet (and I do feel a little greedy for complaining about this) I'm not quite sure that the book flowed as well as it could have. Loads of the individual set pieces are amazing, but the glue holding them all together just feels a little lacking. Instead of the portions combining together to a gigantic crescendo at the conclusion, it seemed as though the book was forever starting and stopping, without really building on any of the brilliance. Again, this does feel a little unfair of me, because those standout pieces are indeed fantastic, but overall I couldn't help but believe that the sum was just a tiny bit less than all of the parts, given how wonderful some of those parts were.

As for what those wonderful parts were. Well, there are some absolutely fantastic sections of prose here. Chapter Twenty (the Doctor's descent) is as magical as anything I've ever read in Doctor Who. The Doctor's conversations with Sabbath, while occasionally coming across as gimmicky, are nevertheless penetrating in their insight as to how the two men see their place in the universe. The setting adds a lot to the story, although it doesn't feel quite as overwhelming as the New Orleans of City of the Dead did. The carnival sequences work, not only because of their description, but, more importantly, because of the way the outlandish freaks and geeks react to the Doctor.

The humor in this story is something that I haven't seen much written about, but there were a handful of sequences that had me laughing out loud, and that's a wonderful thing that happens all too infrequently in Doctor Who books. Overall, this is a really good book that comes recommended. Comparisons to Rose's previous book are no doubt inevitable, and while I found Camera Obscura to be vaguely lacking in contrast, that doesn't take away from the book at hand. Occasionally magical, and never less than enthralling, its minor flaws don't stop this from being a required read.

A Review by Rob Matthews 25/1/03

Keep meaning to get round to it, but I've got to admit I still haven't read City of the Dead. I'm in much the same position I was with Anachrophobia - there everyone was debating its merits relative to the author's previous Who book Festival of Death, which I hadn't read either.

Still, I guess this way I'm in a position to answer that very important question, Is Lloyd Rose as good a writer as everyone thinks? The answer has got to be yes, since in Camera Obscura she's managed to produce a Victorian-era Doctor Who story that while reading I never once started comparing to Ghost Light, Weng-Chiang, Fang Rock, All-Consuming Fire etc despite quite a few parallels - including a mysterious stage performer and numerous references to Sherlock Holmes. She's also written a book that I finished only the day after I started, another very good sign. Without belittling her own accomplishment, I'd say Rose's writing style here is comparable to Kate Orman, Paul Cornell and Lance Parkin at their best. She has Orman's gift for beautiful prose, and for gently slipping in bizarre or horrific bits without yelling 'boo!'; she's attuned to the Jungian-archetype nonsense so beloved of Paul Cornell (though it's several shades darker here), and she has the same no-nonsense approach to narrative as Parkin, as well as his ability to describe a time and place without going overboard. And she can do laugh-out-loud humour too- I refer you to a comment made by Anji about Sabbath on p.156. The book throws in a lot of period stuff and makes it fit - most notably the Crystal Palace, the SPR, Hound of the Baskervilles, and women in madhouses (there was an exceedingly peculiar fetish about the latter in the nineteenth century - lots of romanticised paintings of demented Ophelias and so on. Misogynist twonks). Contemporaneous historical stuff like this is often chucked into the BBC books, and judging by those I've read it usually it works (there's always a danger of these things feeling like the penny farthing gag from French & Saunders. Actually I've probably lost you there, sorry). One of the numerous reasons Dying in the Sun failed was because it didn't manage to back up its central gimmick with any, so to speak, 'period pieces'. Unlike, say, the excellent Turing Test which was absolutely soaked through with such detail, right down to the narrative voices. Well, the luck's holding 'cause nothing in Camera Obscura feels shoehorned in. Amazingly enough, there's no reference to Poe's The Telltale Heart, which would seem the obvious one, but there's a lot of evocative imagery in the opening chapters that reminded me of early Hitchcock - stage performers, trains, imprisoned women, a sympathetic freakshow troupe. I doubt any of that was intentional, but it's interesting how these motifs travel. The Holmes references are, as I've said, way over the top, though strangely the most overt one - about the hound - is the most successful. The 'subtler' ones about the Doctor's lodgings come across as too indulgent - since the Doctor's amnesia precludes fanwank about Doctor Who, I guess the authors will turn to any eccentric hero for their fix. The atmospheric style extends to the character names too - Chiltern, Octave, Scale. Oh, and the Angel-Maker is one of the most insidiously creepy presences I've encountered in a Doctor Who novel. By being constantly described as such, you get the sense of something barely human.

It's not all shadows and fog, either. Camera Obscura is a very satisfying story, and one of those pivotal Doctor Who novels. For which reason, I can't discuss the plot in any depth. I will say that despite the evident quality of the writing, I do have some basic reservations about certain developments here. See, events a few books back made me think that the Doctor and his universe were undergoing a major long-lasting changes, and now it seems that those changes are being rescinded. Far, far too soon, IMO.

Also, I'd like the BBC books to give us some clarification as to the nature of the universe the Doctor exists in now. Lawrence Miles told us that, as things stand post-Ancestor Cell, there never was a Gallifrey. But here that ubiquitous biodata makes a comeback, and it feels biodated (hee hee). Just what did and didn't survive the death of the Time Lords? Is it possible for the Eighth Doctor to bump into himself and Sam on his travels, or does his own history not exist anymore? I can accept it of a force-of-nature/magical figure like the Doctor, but how did Fitz survive the destruction of a reality? Amnesia's always a hackneyed plot convenience anyway, and the books I've read still seem to be deferring important questions.

But these complaints are more in the editorial, story arc area. As an author Lloyd Rose is surely one of the big guns of current EDAs. A fresh, attractive voice. If you don't read every Who book that comes along (and I don't), you ought to make room for this one.

A Review by Mike Morris 26/2/03

Second novel syndrome; how to follow up a great debut? After the disappointment of Jonathon Morris' second book, I was intrigued to see how Lloyd Rose would follow up on City of the Dead. Positively, is the short answer, with Camera Obscura eliminating some of the more irritating aspects of City of the Dead, being the first BBC book to really use Sabbath well, and being generally satisfying overall. It even has some women in it who aren't completely useless, which gives it the edge on City of the Dead straight away.

City of the Dead was an entertaining book, although it was somehow a touch gimmicky, surrounding the Doctor with all sorts of people who seemed were a bit self-consciously weird, and relying too much on magic, elementals and acolytes flashing their tits all over the place. It papered over these cracks with a fast, multi-threaded plot and a great evocation of its setting.

Camera Obscura is an altogether more staid affair, but has somewhat more substance, even though many of these elements recur. There are more weird people - in fact, quite literally a freakshow - but in the Victorian setting its somehow less generic. There's also a lot more non-scientific elemental stuff, but it's confined to a single to a single passage, more or less. For the first time, Sabbath is introduced early and takes centre-stage throughout the book. Unfortunately, to discuss this thread would spoil The Adventuress of Henrietta Street, so I can't go into detail. Suffice it to say that the Doctor and Sabbath's fates are revealed to be linked in a very real, and ingenious, way.

More interesting still are Sabbath's motivations, and his relationship with the Doctor. Sabbath sees himself as the protector of time; the Doctor sees Sabbath as a dangerous fool, with no understanding of the subtlety of his role. What is surprising is the resentment the Doctor feels, causing him to be downright malicious at times. It's all good stuff, and as a pairing each man exposes the other's true character. This is Sabbath's most memorable appearance up to and including The Infinity Race - and yes, that includes Henrietta Street.

It all culminates in the book's big downside, a self-indulgent trek through prepacked otherworldly realms to the land of the dead. Quite how this got past the editor baffles me. Those of you who shudder when remembering the Doctor's little holiday in some generic dreamlike dimension with a housewife-type elemental spirit that appeared in City of the Dead will find this even worse. To be fair, I rather liked the City of the Dead netherworld at the time; it was corny, but essentially a nice moment of peace that gave a much-needed pause in a breathless book. It was only afterwards the lameness of it really nagged at me. But then, it wasn't important enough to get het-up about, and it wasn't as if it would happen again.

But it does. And this time it's simply horrible.

I have problems with the very principle of Doctor Who dealing with the question of what happens after we die. It's just too big a question for a series that is, essentially, chewing gum entertainment, and any use of this sort of thing verges on the questionable. Yes, elementals like Death have popped up before, but their use is sparing and distant. But this is ridiculous. Even if handled sensitively I'd have problems with the idea of the Doctor nipping down to hell whenever the fancy took him; but here, Death and the afterlife are shoehorned in with all the taste and subtlety of Lawrence Llewellyn Bowen redecorating a funeral home (Sorry; esoteric Brit reference there). Hell is cold and dark. Death is a hideous looking demon-type thing. Everyone gets tortured. Whilst reading it I yearned for the metaphysical depth of South Park, Bigger Longer and Uncut. It's unnecessary, it's pointless, it's derivative. It's also stupid and vulgar and crass.

To be fair, although the Doctor popping down to hell for, um, a quick chat and a pint of milk really blights Camera Obscura, it is only a small portion of the book; and there is little enough negative about the rest of it. The only other gripe I have is that the sheer genius of the Doctor/Sabbath relationship somewhat overshadows a plot that is somewhat thin anyway, relying as it does on a few different versions of the same idea.

Enough. No more moaning. The setting is evoked wonderfully. Given that Doctor Who pops back to Victorian London every ten minutes, it's astonishing how much more vivid it seems here. Everything is dark and dirty and twisted; this is a London of opium, opulence, dirt, disease and horseshit. The characterisation this time round is wonderful, from Sabbath's pseudo-companion the Angel-Maker (who might be seen as a twisted version of Leela), to the schizophrenic Constance Jane, to the sweaty and grasping Micah Scale. The book spins madly through a giddily warped undercity, from seances to asylums to freakshows to magic shows to clouds of opium, before departing to a finale that gleefully reworks The Hound of the Baskervilles. It's all rather exhilarating.

There are various elements that have appeared in both Lloyd Rose novels - multiple plots, underworlds, surreal dream scenes, twisted characters and a delight in weirdness; I think this woman likes David Lynch movies. Which is nice. This is a substantial work in every respect, and has cemented her status as one of the more exciting Who writers. This book is highly recommended, and although it has slightly less verve than City of the Dead it is much more solid and of far more lasting worth.

It would be nice if Lloyd Rose would stop indulging her sadistic side by throwing in the odd passage that even now makes me grind my teeth, claw my own face, and then stick toasting forks in my left buttock. I think it's disturbing the other people in the cyber-cafe. But that fairly substantial flaw notwithstanding, this piece of work really impressed me, and roll on the next one. Just a few less elementals please.

A Review by John Seavey 1/9/03

Camera Obscura isn't so much a book as a piece of confectionary -- Lloyd Rose's second book is light, sweet, and fluffy, leaving a pleasant taste in your mouth as it melts delightfully into the memory. It's not a calorie-heavy work; the plot, which revolves around a dangerously malfunctioning time machine, is a light run-around that never distracts from the important part. This is a book that entirely deals with the repercussions of The Adventuress of Henrietta Street, and provides us plenty of Sabbath/Doctor conflicts and confrontations to bring a grin to our faces. Sabbath more or less winds up being the straight man to the Doctor's "Bugs Bunny"-esque revenge for the events of the last several books, and we love every minute of it.

I do recall saying in my review of The Adventuress of Henrietta Street that had the Doctor been in full possession of his faculties at the time, he would never have allowed Sabbath to do what he did -- and furthermore, that once his faculties had returned, he'd reverse it. In fact, he goes one better than that. Upon finding out that his second heart now beats in Sabbath's chest, he finds method after method of making use of the fact to make Sabbath regret every possible moment of his double-hearted-ness. From invading Sabbath's brains to stabbing himself in the chest just for fun, we finally see a bit of a return to form for the Doctor. He's no congenital idiot in this book... instead, he's the one pulling the strings, and Sabbath dances for him.

Mainly, I think, this is because Lloyd Rose is writing a thinly-disguised Seventh Doctor. In fact, I think that Lloyd Rose is writing a thinly-disguised Virgin NA, complete with an appearance by Death and as many other continuity references as she can get away with. Not that I think this is a bad thing by any stretch, naturally. I geek out on the NAs with the best of them, and anyone trying for a conscious evocation of my favorite era of the series gets my vote.

This is, for the most part, a "mythos" book, and as such it really lives or dies on the strengths of the regulars. The plot isn't much cod, another "oh, look, with the Time Lords gone time machines are common and that's BAD", with some clever little curlicues. But it's not about the plot -- it's about finding out what Sabbath's been up to, and getting the first real confrontation between the two and the setting down of their respective philosophies... and in that sense, it shines. Sabbath comes off well, the Doctor comes off better, and the companions get some good moments too (although Anji still doesn't drive me wild.)

The prose is just delightful, too... every scene between the Doctor and Sabbath crackles with energy, and there's just some wonderful lines and wonderful scenes. It does subscribe to the Kate Orman School of Torturing the Doctor, in some very gruesome ways...but unlike some of the other novels that went in for this, the Doctor gets sequences that show that he can take the pain and still save the day, which I love. Recommended.

Doctor Who in an Exciting Adventure with Sabbath by David Massingham 14/10/03

This is my kind of Doctor Who book. It's not quite perfect, but Camera Obscura gets enough things right to rank alongside the very best EDAs, and for that matter, the best NAs.

This novel is a wonderful feast; the book positively flies by, taking no time to read at all. Yet when I was finished I didn't feel unsatisfied, like I do after so many other page-turners. Rather, I had a lot to weigh up about the relationship between the Doctor and Sabbath, and the current story arcs. Lloyd Rose has created a novel which really manages to get a good look at the heart angst of recent times, as well as a proper portrait of the mysterious Sabbath.

My only other experience of the character of Sabbath is History 101, in which he barely features. So reading about him in Camera Obscura really painted a vivid and exciting portait of this traveller. This is really a Doctor/Sabbath book, investigating the intricaces of their relationship, and effectively portraying the mixed feelings the Doctor has towards this new presence in his life -- anger, gratitude, respect, fear of what he may do, curiousity, and the almighty vengeance. The moment when the reader finds out what Sabbath had done with the Doctor's heart is one of the most chilling, insidious moments in Doctor Who history, period. Furthermore, the relationship between these two deepens as the book goes on, and the snippy, judgmental rapport they have between them is extremely well-written and very engaging. Towards the end of the novel, when the Doctor gains what may be called his revenge on Sabbath, the reader is positively cheering for their hero. The manner in which he gains this revenge is highly original and atmospheric, helped no end by Rose's vivid prose.

This being a Doctor-centric novel, Fitz and Anji don't feature as much as they may otherwise. This is fine in this case, as although they are essentially minor characters in this tale, the scenes they do get are filled with character development and interesting comments on Victorian England. Through Anji we get some interesting foresights into race and how it was percieved in this period, and through Fitz we get one of the best segments of the book, the scene between him and the Doctor on the moors. It is also great to see it sink into Fitz how long he has been travelling in the TARDIS, with his realisation that he is nearly thirty-three. The little things like this help develop the crew and make them that little bit more believable.

The prose of the novel is lovely, with great care going into the descriptions of 19th century London, the corridors of the mental institution, the plains of Dartmoor. Lloyd Rose paints a strong image of the times and the places, and her eye for characters is equally strong. The Chilterns are fantastically realised, particularly Nathaniel; the Angel-Maker comes across as one of the most bizarre and creepy characters in recent memory, but retaining a sort of endearing child-like innocence, which is neating accentuated by her devotion to Sabbath. Constance Jane and her "friends" are all well drawn, though one would have like to have seen a bit more of her, escpecially towards the end. Octave is beautifully tragic figure, and once again it would have been nice to see a tad more of this one, too. These characters aside, Scale comes across as a bit of an stereotype, though he hardly annoys (repulses, more like). The circus folk, though well written, perhaps feature a bit too much; they bring the centre of Camera Obscura down a bit. It may have been better to have dropped them completely (but then we wouldn't have had that sweet little coda).

This is one of the nicest novels from the range. Thanks to an evocative atmosphere, rich characters, a clever plot, and the lovely writing of Sabbath and the Doctor, Camera Obscura ends up being a terrific read. For me, it's probably one of the top five or six EDAs.

9 out of 10.

Exquisite. Absolutely exquisite. by Robert Smith? 8/11/03

Okay, first up my major gripe with this novel: why isn't every Doctor Who book like this?

I love Doctor Who books, I really do. But Camera Obscura is the sort of book that makes you realise just how far most of them still have to go. I mean, here's a book that would be a fairly inconsequential read in the hands of any other author: there's a relatively underambitious story going on, centred around a plot McGuffin, too much running around and the camera obscura of the title barely appears. The plot feels contrived, as though it's only there to string the set pieces together and it features a sequential list of villains who only come to the fore after their predecessor's death. But in the capable hands of Lloyd Rose, this is a gorgeous book.

We as fans aren't like most readers. We're far more concerned with plot than anything else, which isn't something that more mainstream literature goes in for nearly as much. That's probably because of the televised roots of the series: back then it was all about the acting, but obviously you can't have that in a book, so we've dutifully followed the Lofficier model and gone with plot instead. And, somewhat understandably, given the wealth of material we now have, that's sometimes more important than the story itself.

Characterisation is there too, but it's not nearly as high on our radar as plot, unless it goes wrong. So long as we can get a couple of writer-proof companions that even the hacks can't mess up, we're pretty happy. The same holds with continuity, although that's obviously less of a general rule. But again, they key point is "don't get it wrong" with a side note of "don't do too much of it". There's atmosphere and worldbuilding and scene-setting as well, but they're just peripheral really.

Oh, and way down on our list of priorities is the writing itself.

I think this is what causes most of the fan/professional schisms. When decent authors have laboured for months, getting the prose just so, along come the reviews talking about how it all went kablooey at the end and the fan discussions about the man with the rosette who appears in less than 1% of the book.

Camera Obscura, I think - I hope - proves this wrong. Its position at the top of the charts fills me with a lot of optimism. It tells me that you can overcome my guidelines above... if you're good enough. Really good enough. Because the thing that makes Camera so fabulous is the writing.

It's not just the characterisation, although that's pretty fabulous as well. This is the first book to make Sabbath actually work, has some great Fitz and Anji comedy moments, especially when Sabbath gets in on the comedy as well (the reaction to the Doctor's map is hysterical) and I've never seen the eighth Doctor more vivid. But the book's real strength is its prose.

Take the Doctor's encounters with Chiltern's monster. They're scary as hell. We've had lots of books try and up the ante on "this is the biggest threat ever, ever, honest, even bigger than last month's!" but something like this wipes all of those away by grabbing the reader and simply not letting go. But it's not just individual scenes, it's the brilliant dialogue, the very word choice as well. This is a deliciously written book.

There are so many neat touches here that it's hard to know where to begin. The idea that the Doctor's immortal without his heart is fantastic, casually taking the idea of the Doctor to a new level without sacrificing anything of the old. The Doctor finally getting his own back is long overdue. I mean, sure, the Doctor isn't Superman, but he is the nominal hero of the series and it's a bit weird to see him getting duped by Sabbath every other book. The various blank reactions Fitz gets every time he tries to mention the events of Unnatural History are hilarious. As is Chiltern's genuinely disturbed reaction when Fitz starts babbling about other EDAs. Then there's the journey into Death's domain. In any other book, I'd be asking "Huh? What the hell was that?" But this is incredibly powerful stuff, done to perfection. It still gives me the willies.

It's a bit of a pity that promising characters like Octave get killed off early. Actually, it's weird the way there's an ever increasing list of villains, each of whom comes to the fore only once their predecessor is dead. And I really would have liked to have seen more of the camera obscura itself. Having visited one in Edinburgh shortly before starting the book, I think I probably had a better appreciation for what was going on than if I'd had no idea what one was.

Oh, and while the cover is quite appropriate, given Chiltern's monster, it's still quite amusing to have a cover illustration based on the author's surname. Which could be kind of cool for books by Dave Stone, Andrew Hunt and Simon Messingham, but could be potentially disastrous if Terrance Dicks ever co-wrote a book with Geoffrey Beevers.

Camera Obscura is an utterly sublime book that puts the rest of the Doctor Who authors to shame. It's got it all: fabulous regulars, great characterisation, creepy settings and monsters, laugh out loud jokes and is fantastically written. A book that should not just be read, it should be savoured.

A Review by Dave Roy /7/04

Lloyd Rose's debut Doctor Who novel, City of the Dead, was a magical adventure with such lyrical prose as had not been seen in a Doctor Who book for a long time. The question would be whether or not she could follow up such a stunning debut novel and avoid the dreaded sophomore jinx. I'm pleased to say that she does an excellent job. Not only is Camera Obscura just as good, but it's good in a much different way. Gone is the mysticism that City of the Dead had in spades. Gone is the magical reality. Gone is the New Orleans atmosphere. However, she captures the atmosphere of Victorian England with vivid descriptions and the same style as she did in the first book. It all adds up to a wonderful book.

Rose has quite the way with words, both dialogue and description. Her England oozes atmosphere, with a mad chase through dank and dark Dartmoor or a dark and eerie mansion that somebody's trying to break into. You can feel the darkness of the dungeon the Doctor is kept in, almost feeling claustrophobic despite being in a well-lit room reading a book. The streets of London are just as crowded as they are in the 21st century, but this time with horses, carriages, and boys paid to run through the streets and pick up dung. Everything is quite vivid.

The characterizations are wonderful as well. This is the Doctor and Sabbath's book, and everybody else takes second billing. The banter between the two is electric, trading barbs and trying to convince each other of the rightness of their cause. The Doctor is horrified when he finds out what Sabbath ultimately wants to do to safeguard time itself, refusing to believe that the ends justify the means. The Doctor is at his most compassionate, almost crushed when he realizes that he's led someone to his death. Sabbath accuses the Doctor of the ultimate arrogance while demonstrating that he's even more so. The book is filled with these scenes, and I don't think there was one false note in them. They realize that they need each other this time and that they have to put all of their past animosities behind them. The final act gives Sabbath a human quality that he's lacked the last few books he's appeared in, an act of compassion that also, as always, has an ulterior motive.

The rest of the characters fulfill their function but aren't anything special. Rose does just enough to avoid making them caricatures without making the reader that interested in them. Unfortunately, both Fitz and Anji fall into this category. Don't get me wrong. They're characterization is spot on, but they are relegated to the sidelines and have almost nothing to do with the entire story. They're bit players that take up screen time, do some small part to move the storyline forward, and then run offstage. The Doctor is not telling them what's going on, which isn't really anything new. This time, however, it makes them surprisingly ineffective. They show up to point the Doctor in the right direction once or twice, set events in motion that will result in the Doctor's rescue occasionally, but that's it. Ultimately it doesn't matter, though. Rose captures the Doctor and Sabbath so well that it doesn't matter that nobody else does anything much of interest.

I really enjoyed Camera Obscura. Despite the fact that it was about the nature of time itself, I found it to be a lot clearer than City of the Dead. While Rose handled that magical realism very well, I think she excelled even more doing a science fiction story this time around. The plot is straightforward, though it's never boring. It's a lot easier to understand, and it has the added benefit of not annoying those Doctor Who fans who don't want even a hint of magic in their Who. While it is part of the ongoing Eighth Doctor storyline, Camera Obscura could easily stand on its own feet if it happened to be the first Who book you've read. So what are you waiting for?