Some Doctor Who novels can leave the reader wishing they could be seen and not just read. The beautifully written and passionately inspiring Vanderdeken's Children is one of those novels. Christopher Bulis has taken some of the best elements of science fiction and blended them with a dash of horror to create a story that resonates with clever plotting and beautiful visuals.
Two starships from the rival systems of Nimos and Emindar find themselves facing off around a huge and unknown alien space craft. This craft is being claimed for salvage by both systems and neither is prepared to back down. The Doctor arrives unexpectedly and, when things start to get difficult, offers his and Sam's help to the Emindar captain. They head off down to the alien ship and discover... But to say more would perhaps spoil this brilliant tale of time travel, rivalry and big dumb objects hanging in space.
Bulis' alien ship does nothing but exist, but in doing so it provides the basis for almost every aspect of the novel. As events move on, so we discover more about the ship and its horrific inhabitants, and the imagination that Bulis has applied here is nothing short of superb. The ship is a brooding character and its alienness is emphasised well. From the strange pipe-like patterning on its surface to mysteriously coded hatchways and a vast, apparently empty interior, it dominates the story.
Vanderdeken's Children is a novel that demandes reading and re-reading. It's an exciting and gripping story, full of good characters and an excellent premise. If nothing else, it's perhaps the way Doctor ought to be for the nineties. Get it filmed now. --David J Howe