I’ve recently read Ray Bradbury’s Skeleton. It’s a tale of a man who suddenly becomes aware of the skeleton inside himself, and whether in reality or in his own head, his bones start working against him. It’s pure Bradbury: surprising, thought-provoking, brilliant and grisly.
It turned out to be a beautiful coincidence that I followed it up with Jenny Colgan’s new short ebook.
Into the Nowhere, the second book in the Time Trips series, feels particularly Bradbury-esque… and not just because the Doctor and Clara land on a world populated by skeletons.
The planet in question doesn’t have a name; in fact, there’s no information on it anywhere. The Doctor is reluctant to land there, but hey, it’s the Doctor, and soon, he and Clara are exploring an ever-changing and incredibly dangerous landscape. It’s something novels excel at: though the TV production crews can realise the seemingly-impossible, the budget for Into The Nowhere would have to be enormous. But here it, perfectly imagined in prose.
Jenny, who previously wrote Dark Horizons for the Whoniverse, has a beautiful way with words. The detail is intricate yet sweeping; it’s that juxtaposition that allows a world to be fully fleshed out so sublimely. It’s a pleasure to read.
That’s not to say there aren’t missteps. The first half is straight-forward and easy to understand, but when the pair reach their destination, it gets a little muddled. Nonetheless, it’s a strong narrative that’s engaging and full of imagination.
It certainly was a surprise to find Biblical allusions added to the mix; it works well, and once again reminds me of Bradbury, notably The Long Rain. Maybe it’s not as gruesome as the conclusion to Skeleton but some scenes in Into the Nowhere are really quite grim. One way the skeletons communicate is horrible, as is the main notion behind them – nonetheless, it’s brilliant. Colgan convincingly suggests a way skeletons could move, although there’s an additional element of magical wonder and faith. That’s Doctor Who all over, isn’t it?
Each Time Trips author was asked to write for their favourite TARDIS team and I gather Colgan had a tough time choosing which one (and who can blame her?), but it’s so good to have an Eleventh Doctor story to read so soon after his regeneration. It may help stop the tears for an hour. And it’s only Clara’s second literary adventure! The pair are deftly drawn: Matt’s Doctor is the mad man with a box (without a box), and a lot of extra detail is added to Clara. Don’t get me wrong: I don’t think there’s anything wrong with her portrayal on screen. In fact, I think she’s wonderful. But Into the Nowhere builds on what’s already been established perfectly.
The Doctor’s character is also explored, particularly that he misses a constant companion in the guise of a robot dog. Considering the story is set between The Day of the Doctor and The Time of the Doctor, it perhaps explains why the Doctor took to Handles so well.
Into the Nowhere is surprising, thought-provoking, brilliant and grisly – and calling it Bradbury-esque is one of the biggest compliments I can impart.