Saturday, January 2, 2016

Birthright by: Nigel Robinson: I Crossed the Void Beyond the Mind

Looking at the cover for Birthright I was immediately apprehensive as the author was Nigel Robinson, who previously wrote the lackluster Timewyrm: Apocalypse which I found a really generic tale.  I also knew that the novel barely featured the Doctor making this the first real Doctor-lite story of the series which are a mixed bag in terms of quality so my apprehension should be understandable.  As with most of my apprehensions of Virgin New Adventures, my apprehensions of Birthright were wrong as the novel is definitely the best novel since Deceit, probably since Love and War.  This is mainly down to the focus of the novel being placed on Benny instead of Ace.  Now I love Ace, she’s my favorite companion of the series, but her character post Deceit isn’t very good when it comes to having to relate to the audience.  It is a fascinating characterization to see her hardened and pushed to her limits through fighting Daleks, but the problem is that she isn’t as relatable as she was in the TV series.  Benny on the other hand is a lot more relatable as her backstory has her hardened by the Daleks, but that has turned her into a sarcastic genius professor who is just a fun character.  Here she is thrown into London in 1909 with the TARDIS seemingly dead and she has to figure out what happened and what’s with the murders of young prostitutes that have been going on four six months.  These are the best portions of the books by far with Benny fending for herself while being surrounded by death and betrayal.  The final part of the novel also focuses on Benny where we get a surreal experience where she defeats the villain.  The novel is jam packed with characters that Benny interacts with amazingly well especially Russian Private Investigator Popov who is a joy to read about as he has a tragic backstory and is in London because of the Doctor.


Yes the Doctor, while not physically in the novel bar a flashback near the beginning of the story and when he returns at the end, makes his presence known as there are references to a John Smith and how he has this bank account which Benny uses to store the Time Vector Generator as one of five cosigners (the others being Susan, Sarah Jane, Mel, and Victoria).  Heck he even saves Barbara Wright’s grandfather and pushes Ben Jackson’s father towards Benny for help, all without being seen.  You can see him moving the chess pieces from behind the curtain as the plot thickens.  Almost everyone Benny comes across have been contacted by the Doctor to nudge Benny in the right direction which includes the Prime Minister who bails her out of prison.  The novel also features Muldwych who is a mysterious time traveler marooned on the planet Antykhon where the novel’s villains live as the planet dies around them.  Muldwych is a hermit who never gives his true identity, but theories are that he may be K’Anpo from Planet of the Spiders, but I think he may be the Merlin incarnation of the Doctor as referenced in Battlefield.  He is just as crafty as the Doctor is, convincing the Queen of the Charrl to find a way to Earth in the past so he can get the TARDIS.


And on that note, let’s discuss the Charrl who are a sympathetic species of insects who act as the story’s villains as they want to claim the Earth as their own planet, taking it away from humanity by any means necessary.  They go so far as to recruit a human who eventually is absorbed into the TARDIS becoming an even greater threat to the universe which allows for the surreal sequence in Part Four.  My only gripe with them is that the Charrl contradict their own morals at points in the novels.  That isn’t my only gripe with the novel however as Part Two is the weakest portion of the novel.  It focuses on Ace on Antykhon who has gotten herself into a group of rebel humans going against the Charrl to reclaim their planet.  Ace has to take command to defeat them, but the problem I have with this is that Ace eventually makes an alliance with the Charrl.  This is really out of character as she should have noticed that the Charrl can’t be trusted by some of their actions they commit in the other portions of the novel.  I think that Ace’s section could have done with a few more pages so that Robinson could get her back to Earth easier than what eventually would happen in the novel.  Also the division of the Parts is a bit odd with Part One being the first half of the novel, Parts Two and Three taking about one-eighth of the novel each and Part Four taking up the last quarter of the novel.  Honestly it would have worked better if Part Two and Three were combined and Part Four became Part Three.


Even with these flaws Birthright is one of the best novels I’ve read from the Virgin New Adventures Line with an extremely engaging story that allows Benny to get another novel to shine off her great character while the Doctor is nowhere to be seen.  With that said I would have to score it a 92/100 as there are a few flaws that bring down the novel’s quality.

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