Book Review: DALEK - Robert Shearman

by @edent | , ,

Book cover featuring a DALEK.

The Doctor and Rose arrive in an underground vault in Utah in the near future. The vault is filled with alien artefacts. Its billionaire owner, Henry van Statten, even has possession of a living alien creature, a mechanical monster in chains that he has named a Metaltron.

Seeking to help the Metaltron, the Doctor is appalled to find it is in fact a Dalek – one that has survived the horrors of the Time War just as he has. And as the Dalek breaks loose, the Doctor is brought back to the brutality and desperation of his darkest hours spent fighting the creatures of Skaro… this time with the Earth as their battlefield.

In 1974, the same year as Death To The Daleks was broadcast, the philosopher Thomas Nagel published "What Is It Like to Be a Bat?"

In 2021, Robert Shearman reimagines this classic paper in the Target novelisation of DALEK. Can we ever know what a DALEK is? We know the stereotypes, we know what they do, and we all know what DALEK stands for. Right?

But this book gets to the heart of why a DALEK feels the way it does, how they are radicalised, and what it is like to be trapped in a metal shell of pure hate.

This is not a book about The Doctor and Rose. At times, they feel incidental to the story. All the text and subtext of their relationship is visible on the TV screen. The joy of a novel is in exploring things unseen.

In truth, this is more backstory than story. But, again, that's what we fans crave. Who is the mysterious guard that we see for half-a-frame? Why would a henchman (or henchlady) choose to work for a monster? Moustache-twirling villains become much more menacing - and a dab more sympathetic - when you understand their motivations.

I loved these Target novelisation. They remind me of the paperbacks I eagerly devoured as a young Whovian. Just like The Witchfinders by Joy Wilkinson this is written by the same author as the TV story. So there can be no cries about how the stories differs from the screen.

It's a lovely way to spend an afternoon - and gives us the appropriate sympathy for the devil.

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