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Reviews for Ten Little Aliens

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The Starship of Chimneys

By:EDL Foster, Invercargill, New Zealand
Date:Monday 23 December 2002
Rating:   8

Agatha Christie's memorable locked room mystery gets updated in this retelling by author Stephen Cole. The ten various people trapped on an isolated island have been exchanged for a squad of cadet soldiers and their marshal on a moving planetoid.
Part of the reason why this story works is because the author has chosen an unlikely Doctor to take part in the inevitable action - the elderly Hartnell incarnation lends an uniqueness to the plot, and makes the story more tangibly noticeable and interesting.
It's true that the story is gorier than your usual type of First Doctor tale. And the part where the soldiers and the TARDIS crew live their feelings and experiences through an amplified network of neural transmissions (substituting for the typical Christie first-hand narration by lead characters) can be admittedly confusing, if you choose to follow the sections and pages outlined - I just ignored them and plowed through in a regular, linear fashion.
Those possible quibbles aside, I was thoroughly enjoyably transfixed by the aura of terror and intrigue woven through this book. If this story had been televised, I imagine it would even make a good replacement for the legendary "Tenth Planet" - Hartnell's incarnation would certainly have gone out in a blaze of noble glory.


By:Trevor Smith, Nottingham, United Kingdom
Date:Sunday 15 June 2008
Rating:   9

A tense, interesting tale. A long slow build up but a really exciting ending. I love the 1st Doctor story's the best & this is one of the best.


By:David Layton, Los Angeles, United States
Date:Friday 16 September 2011
Rating:   7

"Ten Little Aliens" starts out like "Starship Troopers," but then shifts to "Aliens" and then into Devil-possession story. The story itself is pure gory science-fiction movie stuff. A group of trainee elite space soldiers get trapped on an asteroid and spend the rest of the novel pursued by a deadly menace. If a reader does not think too hard about matters, then the excitement and tension are enough to carry the reader along to the end. On that level, Cole has scored well. At that level it is better than the somewhat similar "Fear of the Dark" by Trevor Baxendale.

The demerits are these: the science of the Schirr is basically an excuse to try to make magic seem like technology; the Schirr science makes no sense; for example, how does one get enough power to move an asteroid from crushing people?; Cole forgets that since this is an asteroid it is unlikely to have Earth-level gravity; the background is not worked out enough, so that it is difficult to tell the exact relationship between Schirr, Morpheians, and humans, or what the war is really all about; the soldiers are all too "soldiery," more like cliché movie soldiers than real ones.

To summarize: If one wants taught, action-packed adventure, this novel delivers.

Choose your own adventure?

By:Chris Arnold, Bundaberg, Australia
Date:Wednesday 27 June 2012
Rating:   7

Yes, there is great build up of atmosphere in this novel. There is also a large cast of soldier type characters which works against this. Luckily they start being picked off one by one fairly rapidly. I quite liked the idea of the headset choose your way through the plot akin to the books of old. The TARDIS crew are well served by the book but it doesn't really sit well as a 60's story.

Overall I thought there were some solid ideas in this, and if you like your regular characters walking through a gritty base under siege style story akin to the Alien moves then this one is for you.

In space, no one can hear you grumble.

By:Andrew Stephen Wilkinson, Bristol, United Kingdom
Date:Saturday 20 July 2013
Rating:   8

Publisher's summary: Deep in the heart of a hollowed-out moon the First Doctor finds a chilling secret: ten alien corpses, frozen in time at the moment of their death. They are the empire's most wanted terrorists, and their discovery could end a war devastating the galaxy. But is the same force that killed them still lurking in the dark? And what are its plans for the people of Earth?

Ten Little Aliens is the first in a series of reprints of old Doctor Who books, done to commemorate Doctor Who's 50th Anniversary. Now if you've already read these books then there really is no point in you getting them, as aside from the new author's introduction, there is nothing new in these. But for someone like me, who completely missed out on the entire BBC books range for Doctor Who, this is a really useful chance for me to read some of these now long out-of-print books, and Ten Little Aliens is one of them that I very much enjoyed.

At first I thought it was odd to choose the First Doctor for this type of book, seemingly with the style and type of the story being completely out of place with this Doctor's era. At the time of William Hartnell being the Doctor, the stories were generally meant to be for families, with the Doctor being the leading "grandfather" figure to guide the stories through for the children. The stories of this period are usually rather charming, quirky and alot of the time crap. They are about flying butterfly people or meeting Richard the Lionheart or becoming really small and meeting giant ants. On the whole, gritty space thrillers in the style of Starship Troopers or Alien aren't at all common in this period. It would seem like this would be better suited to any post-Troughton Doctor really.

But despite that, Cole still pulls it off. Having Ben as the companion does help, as he's the energetic young man needed for a story like this. And really it works fine with the 1st Doctor and this is largely down to how well Cole writes for him. He nails all the mannerisms of Hartnell's Doctor perfectly, and every time he utters a little "Hmm", or a "Dear, dear" and calls people "child" and "sir", I am instantly able to hear his voice in my head, which is a credit to Cole's masterly writing.

The first words that I would use to describe this book straight from the word go would be "dark", "tough and "moody", or variations on these same words. By making the opening of the book seen through Shade's (one of the main characters) eyes is a clever way of conveying the usual exposition that is needed for futuristic books, and at the same time giving us an insight into Shade's world-view, thus making us sympathise with the character more.

It's clear right from the head-off that this book is considerably adult in tone, with Shade being shot right in front of the whole military academy as an example of the cell-replacing suits they wear. Cole manages to conjure a really very nasty image of Earth's future empire, with it being authoritarian, repressive and being almost monomanically fuelled by blind hatred of "others". They have headsets in this time, which are used by soldiers in training sessions and your thoughts are capable of being looked at and recorded for training purposes. The idea of anyone managing to read your thoughts is a horrific thought, and only gives us an insight into how we as a species presumably feel about individual's privacy by this time, adding to the bleak and repressive ideas behind Earth's first Empire.

Cole continues to present us with this vision cold, uncaring future throughout the book, and he does this partially through the supporting characters, who are nearly all dicks. Almost every character (Aside from The Doctor, Polly and Ben) are shown to be assholes. There are nearly all shown to be xenophobic, jingoistic, selfish, indifferent, bullying, reactionaries. Often Needlessly cruel to one another and indifferent to the suffering of others. One character named Frog was repeatedly raped as a child and her father slashed her face open one night when she came home late, and the other characters who tell this story merely reply that that's the thing to do to "wayward 14-year olds".

It makes you really despair sometimes, to think that one day this could just be common viewpoint amongst people. It also makes me despair to think Earth could one day very much have a bloated, grotesque empire in which there's rabid hatred for anything "non-human" and a callous indifference to other planets and the people on them. In which there's a "kill-or-be-kill attitude" in everyone's mind that makes them hostile and unfriendly as a result of it. Although another part of feels that is merely be the next logical step for humanity, judging by people's attitudes already.

Anyway, if you are squeamish, beware. This book is quite graphic. People don't just die, they get their body mangled up. The character of Frog almost get's turned into a Schirr (the villains of this piece who are seen on the original front cover of this book), with huge white bits sticking out of her body. The way she tries to deal with it is by stabbing herself repeatedly, making blood squirt out rapidly. Another character called Joiks has his arms and legs ripped from his body and then the remaining torso ripped to pieces a dumped into a massive engine. Things like that add to the bleakness of Cole's universe, as no one can even die nicely. They lived horrible lives and they have horrible deaths. Nothing can ever be peaceful or happy. And that's one of the reasons I like it so damn much.

This book is also quite experimental in nature, with a "pick your own adventure" section towards the end. It's a neat inclusion and a fun thing to actually read, and also quite impressive when you realize how complex it is, and how badly someone like me would probably have screwed it up.

However, I find the ending to be a little lacklustre. We've gone through quite a bit in this story, and seen plenty of graphic, horrific and also incredible things. And it just ends. They all just sort of joke about it and then they say goodbye. It's such an anti-climax. Nothing particularly dramatic happens, no one saves there life for the sake of the crew or anything bold like that. It's just "bye" and that's it. For a book so bleak, ending it like the end of a 1980s ThunderCats episode and have everyone laugh merrily about the adventure they just had, felt out of place. But whatever, in some ways it's calming to know things went aright in the end.

So all in all, a book I like. Dark and grim, with just enough gore in it to be readable, it's the kind of book I like.

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