Someone at BBC Books is doing an incredible job of pulling in big name talent to the Doctor Who line right now. Harvest Of Time follows books by Michael Moorcock, Jenny Colgan and Stephen Baxter.
It immediately confounds expectations. Both Reynolds's pedigree and a prologue set on an alien world suggest we’re in for a hard SF tale (as does the cover, with its suspiciously penile starship). It's surprising, then, when, a couple of chapters in, the book changes tack and turns into a well-observed pastiche of the Pertwee era. UNIT are facing an extraterrestrial threat from the invading Sild, and the Master has popped up with another of his routinely nefarious schemes.
Reynolds nails both the family horror tone of the series and the characterisation of the regulars. The Doctor is all warmth and gentle pomposity, while the Master is charming, detached and amusingly ruthless. At one point he hypnotises a man into committing suicide – but lets him finish his cup of tea first. The secondary characters are also a well-drawn bunch: sympathetic, believable and often doomed.
The book takes on a more recognisably Reynolds-ian tone in its second half, as it expands outwards from Earth to billions of years in the future. Hard SF often feels like a slightly uncomfortable fit with a series as wildly unconcerned with, y'know, actual science as Doctor Who . But as with his excellent Century Rain , Reynolds balances the more cosmic settings with the everyday mundanities of our real world.
Will Salmon twitter.com/evilrobotbill