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Combat Rock is not only the worst Doctor Who book I’ve ever read, but is definitely a strong contender for the worst book I’ve ever finished. The entire book is an awkward Frankenstein’d mishmash of three core ideas: Oppression of native peoples in the wake of Imperialism, horrible atrocities in both the name of freedom and money, and finally cannibalism. None of these elements appropriately inform the other. Instead, the reader is treated to severe whip lash as each element is jarringly smash-cut together. Many passages rehash the same ideas previously presented with only their locations to differentiate them. There are only so many times mercenaries can rattle off antiquated cliches, make horribly lewd comments, and shoot natives in the face before the entire endeavor becomes a stagnant blanket of white noise.
This brings us to the tone of the piece. At it’s best, it’s an overabundance of violence and gore-porn. At it’s worst, it’s gratuitous lusting for murderous anarchy drenched in male-aligned sexual possessiveness. Fictional characters aside, no character should have their life mantra of “whoring” be as vocal and derivative as the mercenaries in this book. It doesn’t become a window to understanding the viciousness and lawlessness of hired guns, but reads more like a fifteen-year-old who had just watched Apocalypse Now and decided debauchery and general incivility would be a “really cool idea for a book”.
While I know that in the 90s and 00s, Doctor Who made a shift towards more “adult themes” as an effort to expand itself and appeal to the youth that had since grown up with the show, but this book goes far beyond any synonymous usage of the word “adult”. There comes a point when something is so incredibly divorced from the original subject matter that it is entirely unrecognizable. This book is that point. Characterizations of established characters are completely sacrificed to mold into a form that the genre simply doesn’t fit. It’s forced, it’s ugly, and it’s not Doctor Who.