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Zombies, Germans, and Marines, Oh My!

By:David Layton, Los Angeles, United States
Date:Thursday 8 June 2023
Rating:   6

"White Darkness" is the first NA novel meant specifically to be a historical. Our heroes arrive in Haiti, 1915, where yet another insurrection is toppling yet another petty dictator, the US Marines are about to invade before occupying the country for the next 20 years, and the various countries involved in WWI are trying to protect their interests. McIntee tries to work in a few Doctor Who elements to make this more in line with the TV series of 1989, while also continuing the story arcs of the NA series. The Doctor Who elements involve a strange relationship between German forces conducting a secret research project into chemical weapons (giving this novel strong similarities to the TV serial "The Curse of Fenric"), and the local magician, who has somehow contacted one of the Old Ones, and thus incorporating elements of Lovecraft's Cthulhu Mythos. In the latter matter, McIntee introduces us not only to the Old Ones, but also to the Necronomicon, and an American scientist working in Haiti named Howard Phillips (the H.P. in H.P. Lovecraft), who looks quite a bit like H.P. Lovecraft. This is just one sample of the large amounts of chum that McIntee throws at fans.

A problem area in this novel for me is that McIntee never provides a clear idea of what The Doctor and crew are doing there. So, yes, the TARDIS misses its mark and lands them in a trouble spot. Then, however, McIntee does not provide a good reason for the TARDIS team to stay. They get separated from the TARDIS, but get it back fairly quickly. There is no obvious problem for them to solve, since the bloody events in Haiti are, as The Doctor reminds us, fixed history. The presence of the Old One and the plan of the evil Mait (whose name, Lemaitre, strongly hints at The Master, though in fact he is not The Master), are not apparent until 2/3 of the way into the novel. So, I never felt certain about just what the trio are supposed to be accomplishing. At the end of the novel, this one, like so many other of the NA novels in this early run, turns into a military shoot-out, bodies piling up all over the place. So, the plot overall, feels like events made up just to keep the story going so that McIntee can reach the required length.

Some better aspects of the novel involve the way McIntee characterizes Ace and Benny, especially Ace. It is a welcome relief from the previous two NA novels, "Deceit" and "Lucifer Rising." Neither of the characters are so short-tempered and just generally dislikable as in the previous novels. Ace, in particular, is not quite so ready to kill and destroy. McIntee is the first to introduce the idea that maybe, just maybe, Ace isn't all too happy being a trained killer. She is a bit more like the Ace of old in this book, and that is a welcome relief. The Doctor in this novel is clearly improvising rather than scheming, and that, too, is a welcome relief.

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