aka The Frazzled Mom
Brimming with mystery, excitement, and the Doctor’s trademark wit, Doctor Who: The American Adventures is not to be missed by any over of the Whoniverse – and has arrived in bookstores everywhere just in time for the 2016 holiday season.
I rarely give 5 stars for a book…that’s saved for those few books I find exceptional. When I rate a book 4 out of 5 stars, it’s still a worthwhile read, in my opinion.
The cover and the author: A common complaint for this book is the fact that the author isn’t prominently shown on the cover. The reader would have to turn to the copyright page in order to find the name: Justin Richards. So that was a bit…odd. Initially, I thought maybe this was an anthology (of sorts) containing various authors’ short stories. Turns out it really is six short stories written by one author. That isn’t a complaint, but merely an observation. I image the reason his name isn’t prominently displayed on the cover was so as not to distract from the “DOCTOR WHO” font in all caps or the picture of… you guessed it, The Doctor.
The book: The adventures within this book take place in America, as the title suggests. The time period and setting varies from story to story including gold panning era in Colorado, Oregon trail, early 1900s New York, 1944 army base, New Orleans, and a Disneyland like park called “Adventure world” in Florida.
All The Glitters – set in Colorado during the gold panning era, the Doctor is in search of a body snatcher, or possessor if you want to get technical. An okay story, I didn’t like this one as much as some of the others. This is the first story in the book. Hang in there, or skip ahead to one of the others, it makes no difference. Each is independent, so nothing is lost if the reader chooses to skip.
Off The Trail – the Oregon Trail is a boring place to travel on, according to Hattie. When she and her parents are caught in a dust storm, they wake up to discover, according to the Doctor, that they’ve been moved far away from the caravan of wagons. Mechanical spiders, aka automatons, threaten the family. Their only hope naturally is the Doctor, who leads these 19th century travelers through a spaceship in the hopes of getting back home safety. I found this one to be a better fit for Doctor Who and a more entertaining story.
Ghosts of New York – I liked this story probably the best. Why? Because of the ghosts! It’s a spooky setting, going down the newly constructed subway tunnels to confront specters. Are they malevolent? How will the Doctor rid the tunnels of these spirits in order for the work to continue and the New York subway to be completed? I love how the Doctor runs towards danger, confronting it head on.
Taking The Plunge – This was a silly story and takes place in (almost) present day noted as the year 2017. Still, I liked it simply because why not? It takes place in an amusement park where passengers that were normally jovial and enthusiastic suddenly emerge from one particular ride subdued and exhausted. The mystery can only be solved by the Doctor.
Spectator Sport – Once again, I find it interested when the Doctor takes the moral high ground. Does he have any right to judge people when he’s done some terrible things in the past? Regardless, he makes his displeasure known to a tour company for profiting from watching historical wars, specifically the Battle of New Orleans in 1815 for this story. Before he can walk off in a huff, he finds a murder has nearly taken place. In order to discover the would-be assassin, he must stay and investigate.
Base Of Operations – The Doctor is heading for a US military base in May of 1944 due to evidence of a transmat system in use as noted on an emissions detector. Classic Who fans will recognize this term first used in the second Doctor’s serial, Seeds of Death, though the term “T-Mat” was used before subsequent stories settled on “transmat”. (Yes, I know I sound like a bit of a geek. It’s merely because I JUST watched that serial this past week.) Even if you were unfamiliar with the term, you’d get the idea by the conclusion of the story. The solution to the problem was too easy for the likes of the Doctor, but it did wrap up the story neatly.
The writing: The writing is simple and a quick read. Some readers might complain about that, but I think it’s a good thing. How else can I enjoy a book that my son can also read? I’d highly recommended it for any Who fan from 4th grade (9 years old) on up. My son enjoys reading books with a historical (or realistic) fiction setting, plus he’s really starting to love Doctor Who. I think this is a perfect blend of both. Each story is roughly 30 pages in length, a nice length for a short story. Total length of the book is 180 pages. The stories have the same feel as a typical Doctor Who episode. Bad stuff happens, the Doctor comes in to investigate, things get a little challenging, and the Doctor saves the day. Formulaic? Yes, but that works. True to the Who universe? Yes. Overall, the stories are okay. Nothing truly memorable, but still a fun read. Some of the stories ended too quickly. I know it’s because of the short story format. It’s tricky for writers to set a good pace, but not so fast as to rush the reader through. For those, like me, who are fans of the 12th Doctor, his voice does come through in the writing if you concentrate well enough.
The total package: The book is nicely bound in hardback with a picture of the Doctor on the cover (shown at the top of this post). Gallifreyan symbols fill a few of the inner pages before and after the stories. The font is not too small and spaced so it’s easy reading for the eyes.
All in all, I had fun reading this book. I think this would be a great kid-friendly gift for the reader who can’t get enough of the Doctor.
Disclosure: I’d received an electronic version of the book through Net Galley, after which I received the hardback version to include in this review.
About the Author:
Justin Richards has written for stage and screen, as well as the author of novels and graphic novels. Best known as the children’s writer, he has co-written several action thrillers for young adults with the acknowledged master of the genre, Jack Higgins. The first novel in Richards’ adult SF series The Never War – titled The Suicide Exhibition – was published in the UK by Del Rey in late 2013, and in the US by Thomas Dunne Books. The second volume – The Blood Red City – was published in paperback in 2015. Justin currently acts as Creative Consultant to BBC Books’ range of Doctor Who titles, as well as writing quite a few himself. Married with two children (both boys), Justin lives and works in Warwick, in the UK within sight of one of Britain’s best-preserved castles.