Reading “Doctor Who”: THE DROSTEN’S CURSE Review

Doctor Who isn’t something new. It’s been a TV show for more than 50 years, and in that time we’ve seen specials, movies, video games, comics, toys, and books. Companion stories to the TV show have been published from the beginning, and Doctor Who started publishing novelized adaptations of episodes in 1965. Starting in 1991 a line of original fiction was launched. Since the world of Doctor Who was relaunched on TV in 2005, a new range of novels have been published. This doesn’t even count the numerous non-fiction books about the series, including guidebooks and critical studies, have also been published.

So, we’ve been devouring stories about the Doctor since the mid-sixties in one form or another, and it’s no surprise. The Doctor has always captivated audiences. In recent years books have been written based on past doctors or companions or worlds. While we’ve moved on to the 12th doctor’s stories, some people have enjoyed the opportunity to go back to their favorite doctors or the ones they grew up with. This is especially fun if you aren’t enjoying the current stories and want to remind yourself why you liked the Doctor to begin with.

I have only seen the rebooted stories of Doctor Who, but I recently read Doctor Who: The Drosten’s Curse by A.L. Kennedy. This story takes place in the time of the 4th Doctor. It has all the things that you would need to talk about the Doctor (played by Tom Baker on the TV show) brown, curly-crazy hair, a unimaginably long scarf, and plenty of jelly babies. This particular story takes place in the small village of Arbroath, and involves a junior receptionist at a day spa and an unlucky, depressed bounty hunter alien.

I first read Kennedy as part of a Scottish fiction class, and since I’ve found many of her stories to be compelling and unique. Obviously, many people agree with me as Kennedy was selected twice as one of Granta’s Best Young British Novelists. It would almost make more sense to think of this as a Kennedy novel about Doctor Who rather than a Doctor Who novel by Kennedy.

As with many other Doctor Who stories it begins in England. Bryony Mailer is an intelligent woman stuck in a dead end job, who has a man who is infatuated with her. It’s worth noting this man has never spoken to her before. I spent much of this book trying to figure out why this all seemed so familiar until I realized it was reminiscent of Rose/Nine’s story in the beginning of the 2005 reboot.

Everything goes wrong when an alien crash lands on Earth and breaks some particularly complex equipment. Putta Patterson 5 was part of a brood bred to be bounty hunters. Putta wants no part of this—he just wants to be cared for. Bryony, recently graduated and disaffected by the real world (aren’t we all?), wants nothing more than to find out what she wants and maybe some adventure. Kennnedy’s characters are like most other companions—eager to help, special in some unseen way, and lost.

Kennedy’s writing shines through like many of her other stories, giving this science fiction story beautiful descriptions and ideas. The Drosten’s Curse might be a weird cross of literary and popular culture, but it is as enjoyable and affecting as any other Kennedy novel, and as wild and confusing as the best Doctor Who episodes.

Literally, Darling received this book as part of Blogging for Books.

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