Something Borrowed Review

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Patrick Kavanagh-Sproull gives his verdict on the sixth 50th anniversary short story.

Something-Borrowed 50th short richelle meadThis patchwork series of mini adventures for each of the Doctor’s multifarious bodies continued this month and I am gladdened to say that it was one of the best, if not the best. Richelle Mead – a name I hadn’t come across before – delivered exactly what is required of these petite bouts of adventure and Something Borrowed is a must-read for all Doctor Who fans.

What Mead does so well is that she creates a new world akin to America’s own Las Vegas with even more garish, and neon colours (it’s a parody of the alien nature of Vegas; the bright artificiality and ersatz of it all) and that homes a new race, the Koturians who are basically humans with unconventional hairstyles. Only two other authors [Michael Scott and Philip Reeve] have attempted to construct another planet and even though the aforementioned writers made a planet much more alien to Earth, Mead nails the feel of it. Through her fluent writing style (and Peri’s eyes) we get the sense that Koturia is a really different place from Earth and she even gives the planet its own unique and unearthly culture. The Koturians’ marital procedures are incredibly interesting, both bride and groom must place their hands on a, I use the term ‘magical’ lightly, stone which processes their thoughts and changes both their appearances. It’s a bit like regeneration except through marriage and not accidental injury. Richelle Mead even fabricates a new force field, which tightens around its occupants upon every touch – it’s a genius concept, one that I would love to be used in the new series. All the minor details are well-constructed ideas and the plot is simply sublime.

Admittedly these short stories suffer from being too rushed and in Something Borrowed not that much happens. What does happen is predictable but nonetheless it the plot moves along unhurried. Mead manages to squeeze so much into forty-one pages – splendid characterisation, a resplendent backdrop, a fantastic villain and some wonderful alien values – it’s quite honestly a bigger on the inside book.

The villain is one that appeared only once in the Colin Baker era but is still a highly memorable and significant character, one that I desperately want to return. Their evil demeanour is retained and Mead nails the dialogue of them. The antagonist(s) in question always carries out their plans with one intention and rather than stereotyping Doctor Who nemeses’ schemes – to destroy the world/end humankind/kill everyone etc. – Mead stays true to the character’s motivation in the series. I don’t want to spoil the surprise and give away their identity but once you’re a few chapters in then you’ll easily guess it.

I’ve really wanted these e-books to be good but so far they have been largely inconsistent and the quality varies. Each story is good in a way (apart from A Big Hand For The Doctor which is, in short, an abomination) and Something Borrowed is the best so far, even trouncing Marcus Sedgwick’s superb Third Doctor novella, The Spear of Destiny. Next month we’ll be treated to a Seventh Doctor outing, and to whet your appetite I’ll say this. If you follow literacy news then you’ll know them, and they’re a wonderful writer, so my favourite Doctor is in safe hands.

Final Verdict: 9.5/10

Something Borrowed is a stunning short story and Mead clearly understands the Sixth Doctor’s era very well (she did a lot of research I hear) as well as the characters within that. I urge Richelle Mead to go to BBC Books and demand a job because she most certainly deserves to write another novel.

I thought I’d list my favourite stories of this series so far as we are just past the halfway mark.

  1. Richelle Mead – the Sixth Doctor – Something Borrowed.
  2. Marcus Sedgwick – the Third Doctor – The Spear of Destiny.
  3. Michael Scott – the Second Doctor – The Nameless City.
  4. Philip Reeve – the Fourth Doctor – The Roots of Evil.
  5. Patrick Ness – the Fifth Doctor – Tip of the Tongue.
  6. Eoin Colfer – the First Doctor – A Big Hand For The Doctor.

Catch-up on past reviews:

Something Borrowed is released on Sunday 23rd May 2013.