The Shadow in the Glass
|Authors||Justin Richards and Stephen Cole|
|ISBN#||0 563 53838 4|
|Featuring||The Sixth Doctor and the Brigadier|
|Synopsis: The Doctor and a retired Brigadier Lethbridge Stewart discover the last, and deadliest, secret of the Second World War.|
A Review by Finn Clark 11/4/01
If a book is crap, one blames the writer. However if three years of books are crap, personally I blame the editor. He's the chap at the wheel, the stop for bucks. I therefore have no love for Steve Cole and greeted his two releases this month without joy. The mediocrity of his other two half-novels didn't help, either. If I hadn't been a sad completist, I probably wouldn't have bought this.
So let's stand up and cheer for sad completism! For the happy news is that Shadow in the Glass is very good indeed.
Of course the other name on the cover deserves a mention too. Justin Richards, most prolific Doctor Who novelist by a country mile, seems to thrive under deadline pressures and eleventh-hour commissions. He can generally be relied on for a solid page-turner, but in my opinion this is one of his best books.
It's always tempting with such collaborations to read the book playing spot-the-author. The titular Shadows might as well bear a Richards trademark, since he's often included ghosties, ghoulies and other such horror-like concepts in his Who. I thought these worked very well indeed, being a genuinely new monster in Doctor Who terms (a harder trick to pull off than you'd think).
Mind you, it's a shame the authors felt the need to give them cute ickle horns and tails. As I noted in my review of The Taint, the Devil just ain't part of Doctor Who. Occasionally the TV series raided religion for some throwaway imagery (The Daemons, The Awakening) but by and large its rationalist stance was firmly anti-religious. We'll never take seriously any hint of Satanic presences, so the use of such imagery here becomes unintentionally comedic. I couldn't help imagining them drawn by Roger Langridge. It's a shame, but fortunately they're spooky enough to overcome such unfortunate associations.
One thing I particularly appreciated about the book was its closure in Who terms for World War Two. That conflict has been a sore tooth for our programme, which has pitted its heroes against Nazis literal and metaphorical for forty years, ever since Serial B. Even in the novels, by which time you'd think WWII had passed out of the zeitgeist and safely into ancient history, we've seen a minor sub-genre of WWII novels:
The Turing Test
and now The Shadow in the Glass, which by addressing the conclusion of the war and Hitler's final defeat gives closure to the whole saga. I really liked this. One could almost read those novels as a series, assisted by the fact that Shadow in the Glass contains explicit links to Exodus and Players.
(A curious fact about the seven WWII novels above is that they all star the later Doctors. Two for Colin Baker, three for McCoy and two for McGann. Perhaps casting a modern historian's eye back on this period would feel odd for today's novelists if their hero was being played by an actor who actually lived through it?
But I'm making it sound far too worthy. The Shadow in the Glass is basically a romp, delightful tosh with some of Justin's finest plot twists. A delicate balance is struck between Terrance Dicks-style adventure and the serious respect that's due to the historical period. The ending (which I think is excellent and exactly right) helps a lot in this, as does the dramatic tension of having two eras - 1944 and 2001. But at the same time the authors are happily exploiting the hoariest cliches of wartime and spy drama, not to mention occasionally throwing in an appropriate nugget of bad grammar or unexplained coincidence.
My only real problem was with the lead characters. Ironically if one considers fandom's obsession with this particular coupling, I don't think the Sixth Doctor and the Brigadier work well together. The authors treat the latter with enormous respect, which makes it almost impossible to showcase the former. Colin's Doctor doesn't come alive without a female companion to insult, overbear, patronise and generally drive up the wall. To see him and the Brigadier courteously and efficiently investigating the situation is to be put in mind of an episode of the X-Files, not Doctor Who.
But this nitpick aside, The Shadow in the Glass is a deft, smoothly written piece of work that hits all the right notes and makes it a Good Thing that Gary Russell so spectacularly missed his deadlines for Instruments of Darkness.
I've just read this for the second time, as part of a trilogy with Players and Timewyrm: Exodus. I quite liked it back in April 2001, but this time I loved it.
Well, the trilogy's definitely a trilogy. We've followed the fortunes of Hitler's gang from their squalid beginnings in Players and Timewyrm: Exodus, and here at last we see their demise. Again the Doctor allies himself with influential people, this time the Brigadier, and again there's timehopping. It's got steadily more complex; Players was a simple progression forward through historical eras, while Timewyrm: Exodus hopped back and forth between the past and alternate futures. The Shadow in the Glass is the cleverest yet, with causal loops and the Doctor's present-day actions being affected by what he's going to do in the past.
It was also far better second time around. Knowing the characters' fates reveals all kinds of evil foreshadowing, while the story's wrinkles and complexities are no less compelling second time around. In fact I enjoyed this as much as Timewyrm: Exodus. We don't realise how lucky we are as Doctor Who fans, that a clever, rattling good story like this can be overlooked as just another monthly release. I'm so glad I chose to revisit this book. Next time I do a rereading marathon, I'll definitely include more Justin Richards books.
There was one peculiarity, though - the reference that isn't. For a year and a half I'd been assuming that Shadow in the Glass contains an Exodus link, in which the Sixth Doctor is recognised by Hitler as the Johann Schmidt he came to know and trust in Timewyrm: Exodus, despite the fact that from the Doctor's point of view this hasn't happened yet.
The Churchill reunion is deliberate continuity (right down to a footnote saying "see Doctor Who - Players") but with Hitler history has repeated itself. Yup, that's right - both the Sixth and Seventh Doctors will become trusted friends of Hitler under the name of Johann Schmidt and dear old Adolf will miraculously know which Schmidt has travelled through time to meet him in any given book! It's so bizarre that it feels like a goof. The weirdest thing is that the first Schmidt section here would dovetail perfectly with Timewyrm: Exodus, right down to accommodating the Doctor's altered appearance. The only difference is that Colin calls himself Major Schmidt while Sylvester retains the title of Doctor.
This book is seriously underrated. Fine prose, ambitious ideas and wannabe lit'rachoor are all very well, but gimme a rollicking story with a twisty plot and characters I care about. (Admittedly the trilogy-ness also made it a richer reading experience, turning three fairly straightforward books into a epic that had it been from a single author would have seemed wildly imaginative and ambitious.) Give 'em a go!
Three out of Five by Jamas Enright 17/9/01
What have we here? A book written by Justin Richards (current editor) and Stephen Cole (previous editor), and written hurriedly. Why did they take it and not, say, take someone from the slush pile that might have written a novel already? My impression from reading Justin Richards' interview on Outpost Gallifrey gives the answer 'money', but there was probably more altruistic motives beyond that.
So, a good author and a bad author (see my review of Vanishing Point), about Hitler. I was half-expecting a reference to Timewyrm: Exodus, and for while maybe even The Turing Test and even Storm Warning! But no, it turned out that someone's been reading too much Jonathan Morris. But aside from all this, I found this book quite palatable. The plot of the Fourth Reich taking take in contemporary times is not new (see numerous B-grade movies), but is presented here in a fresh way that kept me going with the book. And the explanation for why Hitler is around I didn't see coming at all (I blame those B-grade movies), but that made it all the better.
The character of Claire (whose role was enlarged at a late point in the proceedings) is reminiscent of Sarah Jane Smith for entirely obvious reasons, as both are strong-willed female journalists. She clearly has her own agenda in these events, one which drives her involvement, and it's nice to see that the Doctor and the Brigadier remain completely oblivious to her plans, instead of unmasking her true motives as so often happens. Her final fate for a plot point that is intended to drive a point home comes across as forced, and I don't think anything would have been lost if that hadn't happened.
The main selling point of The Shadow in the Glass (incidentally, it was first amusing, then irritating, to what lengths the authors went to avoid that phrase) was the meeting of the Brigadier and the Sixth Doctor. It happened on audio in The Spectre of Lanyon Moor, it happen briefly in Dimensions in Time, and before in book in Business Unusual. However, this is still a new enough concept for it to be exciting.
The Brigadier is completely on form. This very much is an aged Brig, following on from Battlefield, but he is no less the man of action, if somewhat tempered action. He's more seasoned, wiser to an extent, but remains the reliable old duffer we love so much.
As for the Doctor, I had a hard time picturing the Sixth Doctor in this role. If any, I received more an impression of the Second Doctor, in his interactions with others, and the general way he did things. And a little bit of the Third Doctor, but that's probably just Brigadier-association.
The Shadow in the Glass is a decent read, certainly one for Hitler buffs, but if I could enjoy it (as I did) then it has an appeal far wider. As a rush effort it could have been worse (I'm pretty sure I can spot Stephen Cole's bits), but as ever Justin Richards' presence makes the book one that will be remembered.
A shadow of the Sixth Doctor? by Jason Thompson 2/6/02
The Shadow in the Glass is a book of two halves. The main focus of the first half of the story is the crash of an alien ship in a Dorset village, and the mystery surrounding it. Unfortunately, this was sidelined terribly about halfway through, with most of the focus shifting to the mystery of whether Hitler actually died in the bunker at the end of WWII or not. Whilst this aspect is handled very well (and is an interesting idea in its own right), the lack of attention paid to the craft seems at odds with the emphasis given it at the beginning. It becomes a sub-plot; an added complication to the Hitler plot. In the last dozen chapters we are reminded of it in just a few short sequences, which are lifted straight from The Daemons, even to the extent of bringing in Osgood to supervise the construction of one of the Doctor's contraptions, which blows up after a few minutes, having changed the situation, and therefore advanced the plot, not one iota.
The book is sold as a Sixth Doctor adventure, but really it is a Brigadier Lethbridge Stewart story. The Doctor could well have been any one of his incarnations. The Sixth Doctor didn't really come off the page (perhaps the unavoidable result of his TV portrayal being so visually noticeable, not a feature that comes off well in print), but the Brig was definitely the man we all know and love, tempered by age, but still able to take care of himself in a tight spot. The respect he is treated with by the authors is evident, with his faults, such as reflexes dulled by age, only being portrayed via his own thoughts. All the other characters react to, and contemplate, only his admirable qualities, such as his military detachment, ability to cut through red tape, etc. Everyone in the book likes him, including the Fuhrer of the Third Reich! Claire even gives him a playful pat on the backside in one scene!
The other main protagonist we are introduced to is Claire Aldwych. Her character is so similar to Sarah Jane Smith that the latter is name-checked the first time the Doctor meets her. Unlike Sarah, however, her journalistic talents are actually utilised for a worthwhile purpose (indeed, they are the spark that ignites the whole story), even if the authors do tend to go overboard with her constantly using any means to record the events she is participating in, be it a mobile phone, an internet camera, a portable dictaphone, you name it, she will be using it in virtually every scene she's in. It becomes more irritating to read such references because the reader knows that she's never going to get to publish her records, or if she does no one is going to believe them. Nonetheless, we get to like her as the story progresses.
Perhaps the most surprising thing about this book, for me at any rate, was the portrayal of the Fuhrer during the WWII sections. He is shown not as an evil megalomaniac, but a polite person, and even a sympathetic figure at the end. The Brigadier even finds himself shedding a reluctant tear for the apparent death of one of the most reviled men in human history. We are never given a sense that either the Doctor or the Brig hold any hostile feelings towards this man, and in some ways I am glad of this. It would be quite dull, and completely unnecessary, to have a scene in which the characters discuss their feelings about Hitler and the atrocities he directed during his time in power, thereby giving the reader a superfluous history lesson, so the fact that the authors have chosen to avoid this in favour of just continuing the story comes as a relief. The Doctor being on casual speaking terms with some of the most powerful world leaders does seem to be a little over the top though. Name dropping, such as occurred frequently in the series, is all very well, but to actually present a scene in which the Doctor goes straight to Winston Churchill for a favour, chats amicably with Hitler and Himmler, and even appears to have some influence in the KGB, comes across as overkill. Another factor I found jarring was the occasional use of swear words, and an obvious reference to one character's oversized breasts. Personally, I don't find the use of words such as 'bugger' to be any enhancement to any story. The show managed for twenty-six years without uttering a single swear-word, but now in print they seem very common.
If you like stories based around causal loops, then this is the book for you, as the Doctor and the Brigadier examine a sixty year old mystery, and in doing so directly precipitates the events that they are investigating in the first place! These loops occur with greater frequency as the tale progresses, to the extent that I began to see them coming. Unfortunately, they eventually become superfluous, with the last few, occurring after the plot of the Hitler mystery is all wound up, serving only to wrap up some loose ends that could easily have been left 'unwrapped'. The final one, however, I was /not/ expecting, and when it came it was gut-wrenching. Do not expect a happy ending to this one!
All in all, The Shadow in the Glass makes for an uncomfortable read. Partly this is due to the notion of aliens that you can only see in shadows or reflections, not by looking directly at them, but it is also due to the characters involved. Not one of them is really likeable, and too many of them are trying to cover things up for the reader to really start to care about them. The downbeat ending seems wholly unnecessary. It seems that stories involving war are no longer allowed to have happy endings. The focus has to be on the appalling loss of life, and the damage done by conflict. All well and good; such things do need to be borne in mind, and war should never be glamourised, but after a tale in which we have seen fascists and aliens killing old men, soldiers, and civillians alike, and seen most of the villains get their come-uppance in suitably gruesome and ironic ways, a little bit of lightening the mood would not come amiss. Still, for a book that was written as a hasty stop-gap measure, it stands up very well.
Dark history... by Joe Ford 16/12/03
This is a story that demanded to be told and demanded to be told well. The two editors of the BBC books teamed up to plug a gap in the schedule and ended up creating one of the best novels of the year, certainly the best PDA in ages. Further proof if it was needed that speedily written books contain that extra urgency, mirroring the series' ability to produce magic in record time.
This is a book that is steeped in shadows in every respect. Firstly you have the Nazis, hiding in the darkness like cowards, the shadows (as the Doctor realises) being the only place they can exist. The Brigadier is a shadow of his former self, older, wiser and crankier. The Doctor walks through the book with shadows weighing him down, only lighting up when the adventuring starts. Claire Aldwich is trying hard to break free from the shadows of the media and make her mark in the industry. And of course, the devilish imp creatures that are only seen in half glimpses and shadowy forms.
It is a dark book, one that refuses to lighten up and destroy its credibility.
I have not read a sixth Doctor PDA that has captured him as well. He is amazingly handled, from his childish excitement sticking his head out of a car window and about to leap from a plane over France, or his sudden temper. Don't you love the way he just rushes into danger, head first and damn the consequences? He charges through the book, bright, troubled and boisterous. The sixth Doctor was an extremely thoughtful character underneath all that bluster and Cole and Richards take the time to give him some sensitive moments to balance out his arrogance elsewhere.
Dragged once again out of retirement and forced into action by his sense of duty and patriotism, the Brigadier is about and on top form. Given this takes place during his later years the writers don't try and squeeze him into the action role (which when attempted before in Battlefield was hugely embarrassing) but instead have him use his credentials in a credible manner to dig up information on the climax to the Second World War. This is the more restrained, intelligent old duffer we saw in Mawdryn Undead and it is a great credit to the character (and the writers) that this is still essentially the Brigadier we know and love, protective of the ladies, unashamed by his love for his country and always coming through despite the overwhelming odds.
Completing this one-off companion set is Claire, a wonderful character who is hauled into the world of cloak and dagger because of her desire to find the story that will set her apart in a crowd of top journalists. There is so much that is real about Claire it is impossible not to be drawn to her in a way that I never was for other one-off companions (Angela and Grant Markham). The simple fact that she is scared for her life is what brings her in contact with the Doctor and the Brigadier but instead of becoming a smug know-it-all after she is accepted into their circle Claire is constantly shocked and intrigued by the unbelievable twists the story takes. Her dazzled reaction to the TARDIS, how she attempts to bug the Brigadier, her instant warmth towards the Doctor... Claire remains a delight right up to her untimely death which assuredly confirms this books unique status.
Easily the best use of the Nazis, far, far better than Timewyrm: Exodus in that respect, The Shadow in the Glass expects you accept how utterly despicable they are and how terrible things would be should they achieve their aim to stick Hitler back in power. Maybe this is simplifying history, taking their evil for granted but with a book as well researched as this the presence of such a well known force of evil adds to the power of the finished product. The cover alone is enough to frighten the hell out of me.
This is essentially a puzzle novel and an extremely clever one at that. Cole and Richards (as ever) treat their readership with a little respect and credit them with some intelligence, laying on the facts heavy. The middle sections of the book are thick with research into Hitler's last days in Berlin, thoroughly absorbing in their accuracy and brilliantly voiced by growing friends Claire and the Brig. The central mystery that needs solving is terrifying in its simplicity, did Hitler survive the War? There is clearly somebody in 2001 with Hitler's face holding secret ceremonies and droning on about the fourth Reich. And this being fifty percent Justin Richards' work you know that the answers will be satisfying in every way. Brilliant clues are slipped in, the double for Braun and Hitler, which are unexplained until the last few devastating chapters. The book is perfectly crafted so the first two thirds lay the foundations to make the climax as unforgettable as possible. Misdirection is in evidence everywhere, two very clever storytellers taking the reader on a helter-skelter of twists and turns.
Of course this is Doctor Who and a long history lecture is hardly enough to satisfy those of us that are obsessed with the fantastical. The SF set up takes up a good fifty pages at the beginning, ensuring all the pieces are in place for when the Doctor arrives (he doesn't step from his blue box until page 63!) and is extremely moody work.
The Vvormak are hardly the villains of the piece, after all they just want to go home after their ship was shot down during the War. It is quite incredible to follow the items of their ship across Europe and to see how much trouble the alien technology causes in the wrong hands (chapter eighteen was particularly good in this regard showing the 'Scrying Glass' switching hands several times). The effect of their ship on Turelhampton, a constant military presence and the unnerving heat barrier (hmm, verging on The Daemons territory there with Osgood involved too, had one of the writer recently watched this before writing?) are a further demonstration of Doctor Who's never-ending fascination with mixing the everyday and the bizarre. And it works a treat too.
Some of the smaller secondary characters are worth a consideration too, being extremely well drawn considering their quiet status in the book. I was particularly impressed with Spinney, the lonely War veteran who was forced to guard the alien ship during those last terrible years whilst his mates were all cut down, the amount of sympathy they dragged from me was extreme. His fate was unjustifiably cruel.
Given this book contains some of the biggest names of the 20th century, Churchill, Hitler, Himmler, within its pages you could forgive the writers for playing up their 'guest star' roles in the book (as Terrance Dicks did in Players). But to their credit they resist the urge to make them larger than life and present them as believable, hard working men, tired of a war that is on the brink of collapsing. The words Hitler on the page were frightening enough but the sheer fact that there is nothing distinctly remarkable about the man - considering the atrocities he has caused you would expect a moustache twirling baddie - is all the more scary. Brilliantly both Churchill and Hitler respect the Doctor greatly and it is nice to know that these two men, on both ends of the spectrum, love him as much as we do.
I would hate to make the book sound dry, there are some remarkably exciting things going on here. The Doctor and the Brig fighting over a precipice with a man about to set off a nuclear device, the Doctor popping back in time and infiltrating the German command to get himself assigned to the Turelhampton raid, attacks by crack Nazi assassins... there is a lot going on in this book besides the research. Cole and Richards juggle up a surprising amount of exposition and action whilst still telling the puzzle book they want to tell.
And how could I leave without mentioning the ending, a decidedly sombre atmosphere despite the fact that the world is safe from both Nazis and Vvormak exhaust fuel. I hate to say this but I love unhappy endings, how much braver is it to finish a book on a sour note, one final slap in the reader's face? After all if you finish the book and there is no punishment for winning it is all a little easy isn't it? The Shadow in the Glass has a far from easy ending, Claire's death is hard hitting for the reader and the two men who were sworn to protect. Their individual reactions, the Brigadier's outright fury and the Doctor's internal conflict make for riveting drama. In hindsight (I had read this book before) when Claire reads about a double for Braun not realising that she herself will take that place, poisoned and burnt, I had shivers going down my spine. Superb if painful work.
It just goes to show what can be achieved in the face of adversity as this might book might never have been published; the underwhelming Instruments of Darkness was originally plugged for this gap in the schedule. Instead top writers Cole and Richards have produced the best sixth Doctor book yet, a dark, twisted slice of history that thoroughly deserves its high ranking in the book polls.
A Review by Richard Radcliffe 20/1/04
The general thrust of virtually every review of this book is that it is pretty good, especially considering the short amount of time it was written in. I tend to agree with that assessment. In fact, I think it is extremely good (regardless of how much time it was written in!).
The 6th Doctor has reached his zenith in the audio adventures. Colin Baker has been given some real classics in that medium. In the book format the 6th Doctor has fared less well, but very well of late. Following on the brilliance of Grave Matter, and the excellence of Players - we now have this one - and the excellence continues.
The Brigadier is a very welcome addition, and appearing in 2 stories in one month is wonderful (Minuet in Hell). Having recently listened to Minuet, the Brigadier's tone and Nick Courtney's performance fairly leapt from the page. Shadow of the Glass is an excellent Brigadier story. He is a fine character, whatever age he is, but I very much prefer the older Brigadier (less militaristic). He has plenty to do here - one of the major reasons for the books success.
The Doctor is wonderful. I like Colin Baker's portrayal of the Doctor. Like Terrance Dicks I believe the 6th Doctor had the potential to be very good indeed on TV. As it is, he is Very Good Indeed in the audios, and that's terrific. As he travels to and from the second World War (what a stir he must have caused with that coat!) he dominates the book - and the book is tons better off for it.
The supporting characters are well-written. Top of these must come Claire - the stand-in female companion. As a journalist she is sufficiently nosy, and enjoys some thrills and spills because of it. Henderson is probably the best of the rest. Hitler, despite appearing on the cover of the book, does not appear a great deal - even though he dominates the whole story.
Doctor Who has done World War Two many times. It is only 60 years ago, facts and memories are more readily accessible than a great deal of the past. I don't have a problem with the amount of stories set during it's tempestuous years. World War Two provides a rich backdrop to storytelling, and produces a range of emotions that fascinate this reader.
This is a very fine novel. Richards is one of my favourite authors as it is. But Stephen Cole has surprised me here. 8/10
A Review by Brett Walther 2/4/04
How could I not embrace a book in which the Doctor refers to journalism as "a noble profession"?
I knew I wanted to be a journalist ever since I realized that once I became established, I could hook up with a top secret paramilitary organization to get scoops on alien invasions, have access to a time/space machine, and get away with wearing some truly outrageous gear. All right, so my starry-eyed Sarah Jane Smith dream has been tempered by lots of homework and a healthy fear of deadlines, and I've always been known for my outrageous gear, but I still love the profession.
The Shadow in the Glass stars a worthy Sarah Jane replacement in
the form of Claire Aldwych. She's a television reporter for the
Conspiracy Channel -- a fictitious network when Richards and Cole wrote
the book back in 2001, but I'm sure it's a reality by now -- who uncovers
something nasty lurking at the crash site of a craft that was shot down
over the sleepy village of Turelhampton during World War Two. She's also
a delight. Although she's a little battle-weary, and well-versed in
bending the rules in order to get the perfect shot, she's positively
charming and instantly becomes the character with which you sympathize.
She's the outsider as the Doctor and the Brigadier resume their
friendship, and, like the reader, is dying to be 'let in' on their
camaraderie and exchanges of information.
The Shadow in the Glass is a book that is, for the most part,
about the process of research. The Brigadier ships off to Russia to
engage in some archive digging, seeking records of the Russian army's
experiences in Berlin while the Doctor travels back in time to infiltrate
Nazi Germany itself in an effort to track down the whereabouts of a
missing piece of alien technology in present day. Describing our heroes'
actions as "research" makes it sound incredibly dull, I know, but given
that Richards and Cole have done their own research into the last days of
Hitler, it's actually quite fascinating. A writers' note on historical
accuracy at the end of the book explains that they've made very few
embellishments, and that a great deal of what the Doctor and company
uncover has some basis in fact.
< The problem with incorporating Nazis into a Doctor Who book
with monsters is that the monsters never seem frightening in comparison.
The Shadow in the Glass features some eerie imps that can only be
seen in reflection (which, as one character remarks, is the reverse of
vampires), but they're never anything more than mildly spooky, situated
beside human villains like Hitler. The mysteries that beset the Doctor
and his companions are also far more scary than the glowing red eyes that
peer out menacingly from glass surfaces throughout the book, namely, how
on Earth does Hitler (circa 1944) recognize the Doctor as an old and
trusted friend? This conundrum is genuinely creepy, and as we've come to
expect from Richards in particular, the answer to the mystery is no
But the largely grim atmosphere is broken up somewhat by a number of
subtle in-jokes. I grinned shamelessly when Claire makes a comment about
the Brigadier's voice being well-suited to narration (having just finished
watching my Nicholas Courtney-hosted version of The
Invasion, myself), as well as the Doctor's use of an eye patch as part
of his Nazi disguise (shades of Inferno, perhaps?)...
These moments of light-heartedness as the book approaches its
conclusion, however, with an ending so disturbing, it made me actually
feel physically ill. I know it's intended to drive home the ruthlessness
of the Nazi regime, and it's not that I expected a book about the last
days of Hitler to necessarily brighten my day, but I felt very let down
and strangely traumatized by the brutal events at the end, and I must
admit it almost spoiled my enjoyment of the book as a whole.
The Shadow in the Glass is a book that is, for the most part, about the process of research. The Brigadier ships off to Russia to engage in some archive digging, seeking records of the Russian army's experiences in Berlin while the Doctor travels back in time to infiltrate Nazi Germany itself in an effort to track down the whereabouts of a missing piece of alien technology in present day. Describing our heroes' actions as "research" makes it sound incredibly dull, I know, but given that Richards and Cole have done their own research into the last days of Hitler, it's actually quite fascinating. A writers' note on historical accuracy at the end of the book explains that they've made very few embellishments, and that a great deal of what the Doctor and company uncover has some basis in fact. <
The problem with incorporating Nazis into a Doctor Who book with monsters is that the monsters never seem frightening in comparison. The Shadow in the Glass features some eerie imps that can only be seen in reflection (which, as one character remarks, is the reverse of vampires), but they're never anything more than mildly spooky, situated beside human villains like Hitler. The mysteries that beset the Doctor and his companions are also far more scary than the glowing red eyes that peer out menacingly from glass surfaces throughout the book, namely, how on Earth does Hitler (circa 1944) recognize the Doctor as an old and trusted friend? This conundrum is genuinely creepy, and as we've come to expect from Richards in particular, the answer to the mystery is no let-down.
But the largely grim atmosphere is broken up somewhat by a number of subtle in-jokes. I grinned shamelessly when Claire makes a comment about the Brigadier's voice being well-suited to narration (having just finished watching my Nicholas Courtney-hosted version of The Invasion, myself), as well as the Doctor's use of an eye patch as part of his Nazi disguise (shades of Inferno, perhaps?)...
These moments of light-heartedness as the book approaches its conclusion, however, with an ending so disturbing, it made me actually feel physically ill. I know it's intended to drive home the ruthlessness of the Nazi regime, and it's not that I expected a book about the last days of Hitler to necessarily brighten my day, but I felt very let down and strangely traumatized by the brutal events at the end, and I must admit it almost spoiled my enjoyment of the book as a whole.