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Audio Book Review


Doctor Who
The Art of Death


Author: James Goss
Read by: Raquel Cassidy
RRP: £10.20
ISBN: 978 1 4084 6881 4
Available 05 January 2012

“‘Don’t be alarmed!’ the Doctor cried through gritted teeth, ‘It’s simply sucking the life out of me. Nothing to worry about...’” When the Doctor falls through a crack in time, he finds himself in the Horizon Gallery. But it’s no ordinary art gallery, because this one has the best view of the most impossible wonder of the universe: the Paradox. Tour parties are eager to see this stunning, hypnotic portion of sky that’s beyond description, and it’s Penelope’s job to stop people from staring up at it for too long - for the Paradox’s beauty drives people mad. The Doctor, Amy and Rory are about to discover that the Paradox also contains a giant and frightening creature with a taste for death...

Author James Goss takes a leaf out of the Companion Chronicles audio books, by telling his story entirely from the point of view of the narrator. He has applied this technique before, in Dead Air, though on that occasion the narrator was the Doctor himself, David Tennant. This time his protagonist is gallery tour guide Penelope, voiced by Raquel Cassidy, who has played various roles for Big Finish’s Doctor Who range and Miranda Cleaves in the Eleventh Doctor serial The Rebel Flesh / The Almost People. (The story is not read by Goss, as accidentally stated near the top of the back cover.) Unlike The Companion Chronicles, there is no supporting performer providing an additional voice, though there are times when you would swear that Karen Gillan was present, so good is Cassidy’s impersonation of Amy Pond.

The title of the piece also takes a leaf out of previous books. We’ve had the novels The Art of Destruction by Stephen Cole in 2006 and The Death of Art by Simon Bucher-Jones ten years earlier. Enough with the art / death titles!

The notion of a phenomenon so strange or so beautiful that it can drive the observer insane is also a familiar one, the most recent example I can think of being the Untempered Schism in the Tenth Doctor / Master episodes.

The plot structure is where The Art of Death comes into its own. The Doctor, Amy and Rory don’t simply turn up, get involved in events and then sort things out. Rather, because the TARDIS crew have been separated and temporally displaced, Penelope encounters them one at a time during her life, not always in the right order. This series of one-to-one meetings works well in an audio book, because it usually allows the narrator to focus on performing no more than two voices at a time, and the listener is never left wondering “who’s speaking now?”

Each of the regulars is well written by Goss and performed by Cassidy. I particularly enjoyed Rory’s lines, while Amy’s segment is made all the more enjoyable by a surprisingly gripping moment in which Penelope’s future career depends upon her reaction to a dropped sandwich - sandwiches are important in this story.

You may see the plot’s twist coming, though for me that happened only moments before it was disclosed anyway, so effectively was I distracted by the author’s story.

Goss is well on his way to becoming a master of his art.


Richard McGinlay

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