Book Review: Blue Box by Kate Orman

bluebox1Title: Blue Box

Author: Kate Orman

Year written: 2003

Publisher and year: BBC Worldwide Ltd, 2003

ISBN Number: 0-563-53859-7

I can’t remember when or where I got his books, I think it may have been one I bought at the Doctor Who exhibition in Cardiff eight or nine years ago but I’m not really sure as I read the other one I definitely got then at the time. I guess being a fan of Doctor Who can be both a positive and negative thing when it comes to these books, any review is going to be biased because I like the show and know something of the back story that someone who hasn’t seen the show doesn’t but at the same time I might be overly critical of it because I love the show so much.

This particular book is about the sixth Doctor and his companion Peri and I have to say that the sixth and seventh incarnations are two that I’m not very familiar with so it probably makes this less biased but I also can’t really comment on how true to the original characters it is. I’ve seen more of one through five and then eight to twelve and I’d say probably one episode for each of six and seven so I have to guess that it has remained true to the originals and I can definitely seeing this Doctor being cannon with his mannerisms.

bluebox2I really like this cover, I think it’s probably one of the main reasons I chose this book over some of the other old Doctor Who novels to be honest without having heard of any of them before. I don’t really know who the three silhouettes are meant to be even after reading the book but I still like the idea of the black and green like old computers used with the binary in circles around it. It has the feel of posters we used to have at school in the IT rooms, maybe that’s what they were going for, I’m not sure, but it’s definitely showing how linked to computers the whole story is.

I do think that this book was a little slow to start, the first fifty odd pages there was a lot of jumping around the different characters and some back story of them that I found a bit unnecessary, but I guess I’m just more a fan of books that grab me from the start. The very first chapter was good, it introduced the character who was writing the book, it is written in the first person as a book that the journalist is actually getting published rather than as events not in a book, if that makes sense. It does jump around a bit throughout the book between the various parties but once you’re used to it and know each of the characters and the actual storyline and action get going it makes more sense and I could differentiate which group it was talking about, at least most of the time. There were a few times I got a bit confused about how a certain character was in a completely different place before going back and realising it was from the narrator’s POV rather than the third person as some parts are where they aren’t involved.

Once it gets going the story is good, it’s mainly focussed in America and the whole thing takes place on Earth with an alien artefact, or artefacts being the main link to the sci-fi genre until near the end where the aliens get slightly more involved despite not making much contact. It’s all based around hacking and computers in the early 1980s, it does seem that sometimes it focussed a bit more on the technical names for things and some parts got a bit slow around that but it tended to pick up again not long after.

I won’t say anything that could be a spoiler but I do like how the first and last chapters sort of tie it all together. It did seem like the first sort of chapter, called REM, before the real story begins was a bit irrelevant but it did come full circle even if it is still a bit of an odd way to start. There’s enough action for fans of that though there are no alien fights, space ships or much violence in it, the main threat is hacking and how people can find so much information on each other for a lot of the book. It does make you think about that a bit, the idea of security and privacy when you’ve got someone who can access everything about you and how they could use that, but it doesn’t really push that too much so it’s still enjoyable without being over the top preachy or trying to be too deep like some books around the same ideas are.

I’d say that overall it’s a pretty good Doctor Who book, as I said I can’t comment on how true to the original characters both the sixth Doctor and Peri are but as a light sci-fi novel it’s a good read once it gets going. For the first fifty pages I did find myself having to push through bits but once it got going I read the last two hundred pages in two days which I think is a pretty good sign considering the slow start. I hope this isn’t too spoilerish but I think that if you’re interested in computers and hacking and that area of sci-fi with a hint of alien and possible mind control thrown in then this is a good book to read as something light. If you prefer your Doctor Who stories full of action and aliens and travelling the universe then I’d say give it a miss.

It’s a good book to read once but I can’t say I’m likely to read it multiple times like I have some others. It might be read again so I’ll keep it for now, but my bookshelves are getting a bit over full and this is likely to be an early one to go. It might be a good read for someone who knows nothing about the Doctor Who universe as there isn’t too much emphasis on the Doctor, the lore or anything from the show besides the odd hint that they’re hiding something from the narrator or avoiding mentioning things.

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