I love Douglas Adams. I devoured everything he wrote when I was a teenager. This one, however, evaded my grasp and I can't wait to give it a read. Enjoy this review from our ever wonderful guest reviewer and maybe seek it out for yourself.
Stare not into the abyss, but let the abyss stare into you.
Doctor Who: Shada The Lost Adventure by Douglas Adams.
“Life would be tragic, if it weren't funny.”
~ Stephen Hawking
When one mentions the name Douglas Adams, there are, usually, three things which come to mind. Hitchhiker’s Guilde to the Galaxy, Dirk Gently and Last Chance to See. This artefact, for it is not just a book, brings much of Douglas Adams’ work together in a strangely familiar, yet new and fresh story brought forth by Gareth Roberts, from the forgotten annals of the BBC script vaults.
Roberts task is a daunting one, not only is he trying to find the voice of one of the most loved British Sci-Fi writers of his generation, but to do so through a story told inside a franchise and one which Adams eventually crafted into Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency. But much like the eponymous Shada, Roberts appears to have noticed the position of deity in his universe vacant.
Roberts’ voice is clear and distinct throughout the work, this is no mere retelling of Dirk Gently, despite characters and settings in common, but Adams’ echo can be felt at almost every turn. With certain passages feeling as though they may have been ripped straight from the cortex of Adams himself, or less generously from the original script itself. One could be forgiven for initially feeling that this is the work of a master, finished by an apprentice or a mimic.
But Roberts is more than merely Adams’ surrogate voice, in fact, once one becomes accustomed to the echoes of Adams, one finds the duality of voices becomes a conversation of entities.
For Shada, gives us visions of a world where Doctor Who, Dirk Gently and the Hitchhiker’s Guide are all one and of a piece. Weaving the strings of three beloved sci-fi comedy franchises is no mean feat, and it will not please everyone.
But even as a stand-alone Doctor Who novel, the work clips along at a good pace, is full of wit and humour, while also standing out from the majority of more modern incarnations by surrounding the Doctor with equals, rather than companions he must guide and educate. Romana and Professor Chronotis provide grounding for a Doctor who in recent years has become more unbound. Shada provides a perfect foil and mirror for the Doctor, asking if perhaps, the Doctor is any less unhinged, or just grounded by company. Even small characters such as Wilkin are a seeming match for the Doctor’s usual perturbing eccentricities.
For anyone who likes Doctor Who, Douglas Adams or just well written sci-fi comedy, Shada is an enjoyable curiosity, but it is also something more, it is a confluence of influences which show us the malleability of story and process. How from almost the same beginnings, different stories can be crafted and spun. And while one could consider Dirk Gently Adams’ more distilled vision for the story, perhaps this is Dirk’s natural home, as a Time Lord.
Mr. E. Ruth