Reviewed By: newt5996
Review Date: 5/28/16 8:22 pm
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Terrance Dicks is one of those authors that can do no wrong when it comes to the Doctor Who universe. Bringing in the Golden Age of Doctor Who in the Jon Pertwee years and writing most of the Target novelizations and of course contributing to the original novels published by Virgin and BBC Books. He returns once again to the Virgin New Adventures after writing the brilliant Timewyrm: Exodus and revisits one of his best stories State of Decay creating a sequel that is just as good if not better than the original. Blood Harvest sees the Doctor and Ace in Chicago in the 1920s dealing with the Prohibition and Al Capone while Benny is on the planet in E-Space from State of Decay investigating the political turmoil between the Lords and Common People, but both are being plagued by vampires. Yes at the end of State of Decay, the Doctor failed to completely kill bodies of the Three Who Rule which live on as mindless killing machines. The novel also sees the return of Romana as she has finished freeing the Tharils and is investigating the planet as there have been mysterious deaths.
The first thing that strikes you about Blood Harvest is just how easy the novel is to read. While the story is intended for a mature audience Terrance Dicks keeps the pace so children could follow with shorter chapters. This allows the suspense to rise a lot quicker and before you know it you’re already halfway through the book and it’s so late at night you have to stop or else you will miss your alarm the next morning. Dicks also imbues a lot of humor in the story as he makes fun of a lot of Doctor Who conventions and himself as he calls anyone who would describe a “wheezing, groaning sound” an idiot. The atmosphere is also really thick in the novel as the opening monologue immediately places you in the mind of a film noir, with a jazz soundtrack easily playing in the background. Just for this alone makes this novel a real contender for adaptation by Big Finish. The shifting of the setting also really works as Dicks works in his penchant for cliffhangers between chapters that keeps the story moving along at a great pace.
Dicks also really knows his characters and makes this story one of the most enjoyable outings for Ace in this story. Yes she is still hard and carries a gun around but she can handle herself. She’s still human and refuses to let herself fall for Dekker, yet even contemplates staying behind in Chicago. Dicks also nails the characterization of the Doctor as he is being extremely mysterious to everyone around him yet has a respect for Al Capone, who is portrayed as someone who just wants to keep up his business yet isn’t afraid to kill people if he has to. Benny and Romana are also great as they spend most of the novel together and get to have a very good dynamic between the two. Romana is as aristocratic as always and has only gotten smarter in her older age, becoming quicker witted than even the Doctor. The supporting characters are all slightly clichéd as 1920s gangsters and bootleggers which allows this novel to get some of its greatest moments. The amount of bloodshed because of the setting is great and the characters add to the sense of panic that the novel creates. The villain of the piece is Agonel who is one of those beings that have been meddling in history making every bloody event just a little bit bloodier so they can get off. He is meant to suggest bloodshed and then slip away from your mind as just a tall man who you may have passed on the streets. It’s a brilliant idea for a villain and the way Dicks eventually resolves the plot, moving it to Gallifray and the Tomb of Rassilon is a great way to get things done. Yes the plot eventually goes to Gallifray which allows for an alright conclusion with the notable exception of the implication that Borusa has learned the error of his ways and is content with his punishment.
My biggest complaint with the novel is that some of the early scenes with Benny while she is investigating are really boring. Dicks could have cut them out and opened with her investigating the tower. The scenes on Gallifray also get a touch to self-referential for my liking as there are callbacks to The Deadly Assassin, Arc of Infinity, The Five Doctors and The Trial of a Time Lord which all feel really unnecessary in an otherwise great novel.