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Item - Terror Moon


Series: Doctor Who: Choose the Future — no. 2
Author: Baxendale, Trevor
Date: September 1, 2016
ISBN: 1405926511 / 9781405926515
Length: 128 sections
Number of Endings: 9
Cover Text: On an abandoned moon base, the Twelfth Doctor discovers a flesh-eating horror that leaves only the bones of its victims behind. Can the Doctor stop this monstrous being before it's too late?
Demian's Thoughts: At first glance, this book is very attractive to the classic gamebook fan. It's chunky, with a brightly-colored spine sporting the Penguin logo, and it definitely evokes the classic Fighting Fantasy look and feel. Unfortunately, though, while the format implies a lengthy gamebook, perhaps featuring some complex mechanics, the reality is that these are simple pick-a-path books, and the thickness is made up mostly with empty space -- the text is double-spaced, and if the blank lines were removed, you would end up with something about the length of the earlier Doctor Who: Decide Your Destiny books.

Issues of packaging wouldn't matter so much if this were a great book, but unfortunately it is not. The blend of sci-fi body horror and Doctor Who tropes on display here never meshes quite right. The graphic content -- flesh dissolving, bodies splitting into horrifying monsters -- seems a bit strong for something published under a "for children" banner, yet some of the more juvenile Doctor Who conventions -- particularly the need to reduce the threat to a ranting monster that could be rendered as a rubber suit -- undermines the horror. I did appreciate the way the author drew on both classic and new series elements to pepper the text with fan-friendly references, but I would have appreciated a better story a lot more than fan service.

The gameplay of the book is also rather lacking. The fact that this is written in the third person and that the Doctor is essentially an invincible character significantly reduces reader involvement in the text. The use of a lot of arbitrary choices, some of which are about "what happens next" rather than "what to do next," doesn't help. I can think of two ways in which this book could have been a lot more interesting. One would have been to create a more compelling cast of secondary characters, and creating tension by making it difficult or impossible for the Doctor to save all of them -- the book at least hints that this idea crossed the author's mind, but the characters are too scattered and underdeveloped to get much of a reaction out of the reader. Another option would have been to create a more interesting monstrous foe, and allow the reader to learn more about it by exploring different paths -- the book certainly shows different aspects of the creature in different paths as written here, but it never gels together into a particularly coherent whole, instead reading like a random collection of potentially gross and/or scary atttributes.

I approached this book with fairly low expectations, and unfortunately they were not exceeded. It's a shame, since the book combines two things I enjoy: claustrophobic monster tales and Doctor Who; however, that's a challenging blend to handle well, and the author missed the mark more often than he hit it in this case.

More reviews by Demian

Special Thanks:Thanks to Mateusz Motyka for the cover image.
Users Who Own This Item: Ardennes, Demian, Malthus Dire

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