Sunday, December 27, 2015

White Darkness by: David A. McIntee: Island of the Living Dead

Zombies and Doctor Who are two topics that really have never mixed which is odd as Doctor Who has often gone into classic movie monsters.  They’ve tackled vampires, werewolves, even Frankenstein’s monster, yet never zombies.  The closest things we’ve gotten were the haemovores from The Curse of Fenric, but those were closer to vampires than zombies.  This wouldn’t remain the status quo after David A. McIntee’s debut novel which sees the Doctor face zombies in Haiti during World War I, but that is only beginning.  White Darkness also officially brings the Great Old Ones as created by H. P. Lovecraft into the world of Doctor Who after a lot of implications of their involvements.  Yet with these monstrosities in the story, McIntee doesn’t go with a horror story for the focus of the novel, opting for an espionage style story in the same vain as stories like The Ambassadors of Death and The Mind of Evil, with the alien threat in the background for most of the run time.  This is actually a stroke of genius from McIntee as that makes the story feel like a cross between two of my favorite stories, The Curse of Fenric and The Ambassadors of Death.


The plot involves the Doctor being stressed in the aftermath of Deceit and Lucifer Rising so he takes Ace and Benny to Haiti for a vacation, but there have been horrible murders in the streets and there are German spies afoot topped off with Cthulhu rearing his ugly head (although not really by name) and the story is a fast paced story.  A lot of the plot is shrouded in mystery and the trio of companions eventually get split up.  This allows Benny to really get a chance to shine in the story after Deceit and Lucifer Rising had her more to the sidelines to focus on Ace.  She does what any good companion should do and gets herself captured to allow the plot to go in an actual direction after a bit of meandering around with no real aim.  I also really like her dynamic with Ace as they both are a bit on edge after Ace’s betrayal in Lucifer Rising  The supporting characters are also really interesting especially the human villains who include a character called Gilles LeMaitre who actually isn’t the Master, even with the translation of Master from French.  With that said he is an interesting villain only serving a higher officer who reveals himself near the end of the novel.  Also the last third of the novel is an extremely riveting read that is really easy to get through.  McIntee really knows how to write prose and I do look forward to the other novels he wrote for the series.  He uses a lot of symbolism for the characters here which are great especially the tarot cards and how the zombies are almost an allegory for soldiers in the war in Europe.


I do have some problems with this novel even with the praise that I give the thing.  First and foremost it takes a while to get going with a lot of the Doctor and company’s actions not really going towards anything.  Yes they’re supposed to be on vacation, but they’ve already found bodies in the street so they should be trying to find the killers and get Benny captured a lot sooner.  The revolution in Haiti that is depicted also sort of fades in and out of the narrative throughout and while I don’t actually know what happened in the rebellion I feel like it was more than we were presented with.  I also take issue with the way McIntee portrays the Seventh Doctor in that he isn’t the Seventh Doctor.  Yes he is undeniably the Doctor, as he fills all the character traits he never really feels manipulative or as if he is in control throughout the entire thing.  The Doctor had the opportunities to be like he was in The Curse of Fenric as he is facing a literal god even above the capabilities of the Time Lords.  Instead he comes off almost as if he is David Tennant trying to be Sylvester McCoy which doesn’t work.  Nevertheless I give White Darkness 75/100 continuing a chain of really good novels that I hope keeps up.

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