My first ever book review on GallifreyArchive and what a corker of a book it is! Written by friend of the site Jenny Colgan (you can read the interview I had with her here); In The Blood is released in all good bookshops and from online retailers today. After being given a review copy to read; I thought I’d give my thoughts of this novel.
When internet trolls start to drop dead, the Doctor thinks there might be more to it than just a sedentary lifestyle and high blood pressure.
From the backstreets of South Korea to the jungles of Brazil, the Doctor and Donna follow the leads until they find the source of this online infection. But they aren’t the only ones interested in these sudden deaths at the computer screen, or what’s causing them.
Before long the Doctor and Donna are fighting for their lives – and the lives of everyone else who planet Earth who uses the internet. Including people very dear to Donna…
First and foremost, I think it should be noted that I love the Tenth Doctor and Donna Noble as a partnership; and I’m so glad that Colgan has decided to write this novel about these two best buddies in their blue box. The concept in itself is enough to intrigue anyone like myself into reading it; using the something in the internet as a weapon is something that, in my opinion, had yet to be done well in Doctor Who (sorry The Bells of Saint John), but I think it’s safe to say that Jenny has more than done it justice.
Now, I really don’t want to ruin too much of the plot of In The Blood as it would be criminal of me to ruin some of the shocking twists and turns that made me seemingly glued to this book. I must confess that it’s been a hell of a long time since I was last so enthralled in a book that I would get mad at myself for having other plans, as it meant I couldn’t be using that time to read the book. I think I managed to read the whole thing in three sittings though; and if time permitted, it would have just been one great day snuggled up on my sofa.
After reading Jenny’s other Doctor Who book, Dark Horizons (one of my all time favourite books, Doctor Who or otherwise) I thought I would have to be somewhat underwhelmed when it came to this book, as nothing could live up to my adoration for her previous work. I was wrong. I was so, so wrong. In The Blood reminded me why I loved Doctor Who; not only did it involve a global threat to humanity through one of our most important commodities, but it focussed so much on the characters and their relationships with one another, and it was beautiful.
The relationship that is really at the forefront of the story is obviously going to be the Doctor and Donna; luckily for us, Colgan (it’s weird calling someone you would call a friend by their surname) helps us pinpoint exactly where in their timeline In The Blood is set, in between Midnight and Turn Left. What’s rather heart-wrenching is that you realise that In The Blood is set at the height of their friendships, before the dark events of Turn Left and before Donna’s unfortunate ending in Journey’s End.
Colgan manages to capture the banterrific nature of the Doctor and Donna (yes, I just made up banterific, deal with it) perfectly, and you can really tell that this book is written by a self proclaimed Whovian. When a story relies more on your imagination, whether it be due to the visual constraints of an audio drama, or whether it be the audiovisual deprecation from reading, it can be difficult to imagine well established and loved characters in another medium, in In The Blood though, it was so easy for me to imagine David Tennant and Catherine Tate saying the lines.
The established characters don’t end with the Doctor and Donna either; we get a great plot that involves everyone’s favourite grandad, Wilfred Mott (and by a lesser extent, Sylvia) which really really tugged at my heartstrings, (or hearts-strings) it’s not often that a relationship between a grandchild and grandparent is explored showing such mutual respect and admiration; it truly was heartwarming and genuinely made me miss my grandad.
Alongside the established characters, Colgan also introduces some rather interesting new additions in the forms of Fief, one of the most interesting and thought-provoking aliens in Doctor Who lore; who becomes a sort of companion to Donna in this adventure, and Gully, who you might get (re)acquainted with in Jenny’s upcoming Tenth Doctor Big Finish story, Time Reaver. Now, this is all opinion, but, as I read In The Blood before I heard Time Reaver, I have to admit that I was slightly annoyed that I knew the outcome of Time Reaver before I heard it; but it’s all wibbly-wobbly timey-wimey so what can you do? My personal recommendation would be to listen to Time Reaver first if possible, to get the most out of this story.
Speaking (or typing) of story; Colgan decided to shake up the pacing and the norms of a Doctor Who story by having a globetrotting adventure without the use of the Doctor’s TARDIS. A bold move you may think, and a bold move it is. The Doctor without his box (I’m not telling you why he’s without it) changes the whole way in which the story takes place and offers up some really interesting scenarios that wouldn’t present themselves if the Time Lord could just hop into his blue box and appear where he needed to be. One of the perks of writing a Doctor Who novel, opposed to writing an episode of Doctor Who for TV, is that you have no financial limits whatsoever. I think it’d be near on impossible for the show itself to have a story that spanned England, Brazil and South Korea, but boy does it make the story much more exciting for it. I bet the Doctor gets some great AirMiles too.
One thing that I consciously wanted to mention about the book are the lengths of the chapters; now, I know that this isn’t the sort of thing that most book reviews talk about, but personally, I loved the length of the chapters in this book. To put them in perspective, the story is 335 pages long and consists of 63 chapters; that’s just over five pages per chapter on average (although, Jenny, if you’re reading this, Chapter Twenty-Three is one of the best chapters of any book ever). Now, you may be wondering why I’m talking about the shortness of the chapters; and it’s because I think it makes In The Blood the perfect book to read at a leisurely pace, as you don’t feel like you have to commit an hour to reading one chapter of the story; instead you could decide to read a chapter and it take only five or ten minutes.
Or, if you’re like me and have the whole “just one more chapter” mentality, you’ll read a chapter, realise the next chapter is only six pages so you might as well; and, before you know it, you’ve read 2/3 of the book by mistake. It’s a good mistake though.
I’ve purposefully been vague about a lot of what’s actually in the book, as I don’t want to spoil it at all for anyone who wants to go and read it; but here are my overall thoughts and opinions. In The Blood is more than just a great Doctor Who book; it’s more than just great Doctor Who, I’d go as far as to saying that it’s a great social commentary on modern society. That might sound somewhat heavy-handed for a book about a bloke in a box, but it really isn’t. Jenny Colgan manages to highlight the problems that come with internet addiction, whether it be through being a troll or otherwise, and puts a brilliant sci-fi twist on it. I’ve been talking to Jenny over the past month or so on Twitter about both In The Blood and Time Reaver and I have to confess that if Time Reaver is a fraction as enjoyable as this book was, then I will happily go to Cardiff and beg the BBC to let her get her hands on televised Doctor Who. She’s just that good. If you’re a Whovian and you can only read one book during this year long hiatus, I implore you to make it this one. I can’t remember the last time I had small wet blobs on the pages of a book, whether it be from tears of despair or tears of joy from laughing too hard. In The Blood may well be the best Doctor Who book I have ever had the fortune to read.
Should you want to purchase In The Blood, it’s currently available as a Hardback Book and an eBook with the recommended retail price of £12.99 and should be available from all good bookstores!