Oh my giddy aunt, I’ve been looking forward to this one!
Stephen Baxter is one of my favourite authors, and one of the finest science fiction authors writing today. He’s known for taking cutting-edge science and exploring its effects on large casts of characters to create tales that are somehow both epic and personal. He’s branched out a little lately, producing some interesting works; just last month, his collaboration with Sir Terry Pratchett, The Long Earth, hit the shelves (and very fine it is too), and now comes his first Doctor Who work.
It’s not before time. Baxter was down to write a sixth Doctor audioplay for Big Finish several years ago, but this came to nothing. His love of the series is no secret; he’s even penned articles on the TV21 Dalek comic strips for SFX. To finally have some genuine, Baxter-authored Who is a joy; not only that, it’s the first totally original, official ’past Doctor’ novel since 2005, and it’s my favourite Doctor too! I admit, my expectations for this one were very high.
I’m both very satisfied with The Wheel of Ice, and a touch disappointed. It’s wholly satisfying as a Doctor Who adventure; as a Stephen Baxter book, a little less so. For him, it’s quite small-scale; this may seem a strange thing to say about a novel that crosses the Saturnian system and reaches back in time millions of years, but such is the scale of Baxter’s usual work. There’s certainly plenty of his trademark cutting-edge astrophysics to enjoy. There’s nothing too complex for the more casual sci-fi fan, but it’s fascinating nevertheless, although there’s a point where Baxter resurrects a classic example of David Whitaker pseudoscience.