Vampire Science


EDA Review #2: Vampire Science

After the disappointment of The Eight Doctors in which a clumsy idea seemed to have been rushed in to print, my hopes had been diminished for this second volume of the Eighth Doctor Adventures, Vampire Science, all of which resulted in my pleasant surprise that the EDA’s were not to be a complete waste of time after all. An altogether better Doctor Who adventure with a cohesive plot, a recognisable title character and some interesting ideas and scenes throughout. That is not to say that this is my idea of what a perfect novel in the range should be like – far from it. For example, there are problems with the character of Sam. She was underused to the point of inconsequentiality in the first book but here we are at the other end of the spectrum because she is presented as an already established character in the TARDIS having been travelling for some indefined amount of time before we even begin. In this book, the role of “new companion” was essentially encompassed by Carolyn who met the Doctor and become embroiled in his world and lifestyle, leading to a temptation to travel with him, while Sam came across as a relatively old hand at all things time travel, who then came to question her own decision to lead this life. I think the book may have worked better if these approaches and attitudes of Sam and Carolyn had been reversed.

The main gist of the book, as is clear from the title, is all about vampires. Now, I am not any kind of authority figure about vampire mythology, in fact, bar commonly understood cliches like stakes through the heart, sunlight and garlic being somewhat inconvenient to them, I am largely ignorant on the subject. This may or may not have helped with my enjoyment of Jonathan Blum and Kate Orman’s co-written tome as I held no pre-conceptions to taint my view of vampiric behaviour but equally no knowledge to fall back on when making an assessment as to whether the text I was reading made any sense. The vampires in question were clearly the same as those seen on screen in State of Decay. [This may go some way to explaining the brief but clumsy visit to that very point in time and (e)space in the preceeding EDA book, which served as a forshadowing reminder to the new reader about this relatively inconsequential slice of Who history]. However, other than establishing that they are the same age-old enemies of the Time Lords, it is there there that the similarities between the two sets of vampires end. This vampire coven was based in contemporary San Francisco and they were quite an interesting bunch too with their leader Harris being quite a progressive sort (for a vampire) facing some kind of insurrection from within the ranks led by the nasty Slake. Abner was the only other vampire given any kind of depth, a necessity because, alledgedly, there have to be 14 vamps in a coven and the book would have been twice as long if they were all to be given sufficient depth and motivation. Ultimately, it was this infighting within their ranks that led to their eventual and inevitable downfall, along with the science bit that is also referenced in the title, that just got a  little dull after a while.

UNIT played a significant part in the story and their forces were led by General Adrienne Kramer, who it seemed we were supposed to know from some previous encounter with the seventh Doctor but I must confess that I know not where. She started out as a fairly two-dimensional military character but eventually developed into an interesting addition to the UNIT family. Probably the best of the supporting cast was Doctor Shackle who was a down-trodden, despondant figure who was fed up with his lot and who reverted to sarcasm at a moment’s notice. He entertained this reader enormously and I could’ve done with more of him. His development through the story was one of the highlights and the little epilogue was a lovely touch. More than anything though, this was Carolyn’s story. She had had an encounter with the Doctor and the Vampire’s many years earlier (in the opening chapter) that had shaped and influenced her life in many, unforseen ways and it was her coming to terms with that chance meeting and its consequences (and also dealing with her partner’s reactions to her hidden past) that was the most emotionally engaging.

As an aside, the cover of this book is somewhat puzzling. It sticks to the ongoing circular motif that seem consistent across the range of covers and features the seal of the President of the United States alongside the silhouette of a bat… neither of which feature inside.  I have since discovered that the character of Carolyn was originally going to be Grace from the TV movie but had to be rewritten because of a rights issue. This realisation explains the rather arbitary San Francisco setting and the fact that Carolyn is the focus of proceedings more than Sam, who really should have been the centre of attention. Perhaps it is this realisation that explains my overall feelings towards the book. It feels like it could have done with one more re-write to iron out the wrinkles left by this problem and may be if it had turned up later in the range where Sam taking more of a back-seat would have been more palatable.

  1. Wow. I feel honoured to have an author comment on my review. Thanks for taking the time to write something here 🙂

    • Jon Blum
    • September 26th, 2009

    Well, glad you liked it overall! And the cover baffled us too. Apparently the publishers literally thought "It's got vampires in it, right? And it's set in America, right? So if we put a symbol of a vampire on it with a symbol of America…" It's a gorgeous cover for a wildly different book!

    Jon Blum

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