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Harvest of Time by Alastair Reynolds
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Doctor Who doesn't do Alastair Reynolds quite as well as Alastair Reynolds does Doctor Who. But that's all right.

But I'm eager for Alastair Reynolds to go back to doing Alastair Reynolds 8) ( )
1 vote KateSherrod | Aug 1, 2016 |
At the end of chapter one of Harvest of Time an alien entity has taken possession of a poor beachcomber, evicting the original personality in the process. The first thing the alien possessed beachcomber has to say is

"I am Sild and I must find the one. Find the one called the Master".

After reading this line, this popped into my head:
“Dumdedum dumdedum dumdedum dumdedum dumdedum ooo-weee-ooooooooo eee-yoo-ooooooooo...!!!”

OK, that was pathetic but I had to get that out of my system. Although I have been a Doctor Who fan for years this is the first DW novel I have ever read. The reason is that I have concurrently been a sci-fi reader for years and there are ample sci-fi novels to read written by legends like Heinlein, Clarke and Asimov I did not feel a need to read novels based on a sci-fi tv show written by unknown writers. In all fairness some of these are probably very good but I would rather read books based on original concepts by the authors. Having said that, I am always happy to make exceptions, especially when we have well established sf writers deigning to write Doctor Who novels. There are three such novels that I know of: Harvest of time by [a:Alastair Reynolds|51204|Alastair Reynolds|https://d.gr-assets.com/authors/1369753656p2/51204.jpg], [b:Doctor Who - The Wheel of Ice|14290645|Doctor Who - The Wheel of Ice|Stephen Baxter|https://d.gr-assets.com/books/1337881399s/14290645.jpg|19931973] by Stephen Baxter, and [b:Doctor Who: The Coming of the Terraphiles|8454751|Doctor Who The Coming of the Terraphiles|Michael Moorcock|https://d.gr-assets.com/books/1327112317s/8454751.jpg|13318865] by Michael Moorcock. I will probably pick up the Baxter book soon, not so sure about the Moorcock one as reviews are overwhelmingly negative.

Harvest of time is based on the Third Doctor played with aplomb in the early 70s by Jon Pertwee before he regenerated into Tom Baker and Worzel Gummidge (almost simultaneously). The Third Doctor (or “Three” as us Whovians call him) happen to be Alastair Reynolds’ favorite incarnation of the eponymous Time Lord, fans of the show often have a “My Doctor”, in my case I like all of them, but some more than others (bowties, scarves and recorders are cool).



The story is set mainly in the UK, in the early seventies (year not specified). Evil parasitic aliens called Sild are invading Earth and also searching for The Master (evil time lord portrayed by Roger Delgado in the 70s) who is incarcerated in a maximum security prison. At this time The Doctor is stuck on Earth, working for (or with) UNIT alongside Jo Grant, Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart and other familiar characters.

As a fan of Alastair Reynolds’ sf novels it is interesting to read his take on the Whoniverse. His books tend to be epic space operas like the Revelation Space series that span millions of years featuring rises and falls of civilizations, and they tend to be fairly lengthy (around 600 pages or more). There is an element of epic time span in Harvest of time also but the spanning seems to be on a much smaller scale thanks to the time travelling TARDIS, an almost magical spaceship that you would never find in a regular Alastair Reynolds novel. Normally he leans more toward hard sf and avoids inclusion of FTL drives, time machines and other sci-fi handwaviums. You cannot do that with Doctor Who which is basically science fantasy and practically anything goes. With that kind of loose framework Reynolds pretty much jettisons the rigidity of real world science, let his hair down and has a field day with all kinds of crazy inventions and technobabbles.

Harvest of time does not read like a typical Reynolds book, it is very fast paced, light in tone and rather short (around 360 pages). The 70s setting is also atypical of the author, he does such a convincing job here that I suspect that he can turn his hands to writing contemporary thrillers if he wanted to. What is characteristic of Reynolds’ work is the writing which is excellent, not so much for literary value as for the quality of story telling. For a thumping good read he is one of the best working in the genre today. The humour in this book is much more prevalent than in his other novels. He is clearly having fun writing about the quirks of the characters he knows and loves so well, and his enthusiasm is infectious. Particularly well written is the uneasy friendship between The Doctor and The Master, the scenes where they are forced by circumstances to work together and bicker like an old married couple is just wonderful.


I think fans of “Classic Who” will enjoy the hell out of this book, fans of “Nu Who” will probably like it too. As for the rest of the world I have no idea, I don’t understand people who don’t like Doctor Who.

_____________________
Note: The only other Doctor Who book I read (so far) is Shada, based on Douglas Adams' script. Quite hilarious in parts but also a proper DW adventure (not a spoof). ( )
  apatt | Dec 26, 2015 |
Over the past few years, the BBC has been complementing its regular series of shorter, viewer-friendly Doctor Who novels with occasional "prestige" releases, generally about twice the length and penned by popular and established authors from outside the Doctor Who world. At first, these focused on the then-current eleventh Doctor as portrayed by Matt Smith, but more recently, authors have been allowed to select their own preferred Doctor from the show's history. (The results, while interesting, have been less diverse than one might expect.) Harvest of Time, published during Doctor Who's 50th anniversary year, sees award-winning hard sci-fi author Alastair Reynolds try his hand at a 1970s-era story, featuring his childhood team of the third Doctor, Jo, UNIT, and of course, the Master.

It is obvious from the very beginning how much affection Reynolds has for this era of the program; his take on both the Doctor and the Master feels remarkably true to the TV performances, and if his Jo is a little more grown-up than usual and his Brigadier a little more cold, they're hardly the greatest deviations of character I've ever read. Reynolds' plot, involving an oil rig, mysterious government affairs, and an invasion by the crab-like Sild, feels exactly like the sort of thing we might have seen in 1972 if Barry Letts had been provided with a limitless budget. The first half of the novel is extremely entertaining, especially if you can turn your fan brain off and keep it from asking questions like, "How did the Master go from this intense high-security prison to the genial environment we saw in 'The Sea Devils'?" As fans, these are the things we wonder about, but of course it won't make a bit of difference to the casual reader.

What affects Harvest of Time a lot more negatively is the second half of the novel, where Reynolds greatly slows down the action. Once the Doctor and the Master join forces (did you ever expect anything else?), there are some very interesting plot developments - and then Reynolds is content to let them spend most of the rest of the book conversing with each other (or with one other character). The Jo/UNIT plotline, while relatively simplistic, at least has a sense of urgency; the Doctor and the Master investigating a derelict ship...well, it just doesn't, especially when it's a foregone conclusion that Reynolds will eventually have to restore status quo, get the Doctor home, return the Master to prison, and so on. The inclusion of a time paradox doesn't make things much better, and I, at least, found myself waiting impatiently through the last fifty pages or so for everything to line up and be resolved.

I'm not sure quite what needs to change for the Doctor Who prestige line. I've read about half a dozen of them now - Dan Abnett's The Silent Stars Go By probably being the most successful - and they all feel a little bit too long, a little bit too much in need of an editor. Perhaps a reduced page count (around 250 instead of 350) would help. I really like the idea behind the line, and I hope they continue to attract interesting and varied authors. There's a lot of potential involved. Right now, though, something is keeping the results from being truly great. ( )
  saroz | Dec 22, 2015 |
Surprisingly faithful re-creation of the Pertwee era - you can almost hear the Dudley Simpson stings and see the CSO fringing. Alastair Reynolds' love of that time of the show comes across clearly, with the Doctor, Jo and the Master all in line with their onscreen versions (perhaps the Doctor's a touch more callous than I'd like, but that's a minor flaw). Reynolds largely sets the story in the industrial locations that era of the show often used, but he's wise enough not to be limited to slavish re-creation. That's where he brings what he's good at to the table - vast timescales, huge SF artefacts and an alien race that might just have been attempted on TV but couldn't have been realised anywhere near as effectively as they are on the page. It won't change anyone's mind about Pertwee but it's a loving tribute from someone paying a childhood debt. ( )
  JonArnold | Mar 4, 2014 |
3rd Doctor
  hapaxes | Aug 21, 2013 |
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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Alastair Reynoldsprimary authorall editionscalculated
Goddard, AlexProductionsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Richards, JustinSeries consultantsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
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To all the Masters — past, present, and future
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The worst machine in the universe was a marble-grey box no larger than a coffin or shipping trunk.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0385346808, Paperback)

One of science fiction's most acclaimed authors delivers a spectacular original novel in the Doctor Who universe featuring the Third Doctor, as played by Jon Pertwee.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:10:01 -0400)

When Unit is called in to investigate a mysterious incident on a North Sea drilling platform, the Doctor discovers that the Brigadier and others are starting to forget about the Master, Unit's highest-profile prisoner.

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