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on November 17, 2007
Ten years out from its publication, this has been regarded as one of the best Eight Doctor adventures and while I haven't read enough of them to get a feel for what the "best" might be, this one is the closest they came so far to replicating the feel of the old Virgin New Adventures. Reading the stories in order, this one comes across as remarkably different in both tone and approach, trying to push the boundaries of the range and the character as far as it can (as far as anyone can with the BBC looking over your shoulder, I imagine). Right from the opening, a somber bit where the Third Doctor plans a funeral for the first true astronaut, you know you're going to be in for something different. The Doctor stumbles into an auction with a strange array of bidders, who are fighting over an object that means a great deal to him personally, something that forces him to confront his own eventual mortality. Miles crafts a novel that plays with the mythology of the show but isn't afraid to introduce new ideas and elements into that mix and that is probably where the book succeeds the best. Putting aside the central concept of the book (which I can't reveal without spoiling, rest assured it was something the series hadn't even attempted to tackle before this), Miles whips out interesting ideas on nearly every page, with far-future Time Lords, entities that exist solely as concepts, the whole Faction Paradox crew, living TARDISes and so on until the book feels nearly ready to burst. He plays these against the backdrop of the auction, letting the various personalities clash as everyone tries to decide what they want and how they're going to get it. Even Sam, who for most of the books has languished as an annoyance, gets her own mystery, as Miles dangles the possibilities of "Dark Sam" before the reader. His portrayal of the Eight Doctor feels like a distinct entity from the other incarnations, acknowledging that the writers haven't really settled on a concrete personality for him, but giving him a sense of steel and eccentricity that at least attempts to stake out different territory from the others. If there's any complaint about this book it's that Miles doesn't go far enough, for all the wild ideas being thrown about all over the place, most of the book feels like a setup for future plot threads, with a lot of the implications in this book being used later on down the line. Which means that the impact of what happens here is a little diminished, as other writers would take what Miles started and run with it. Thus the plot is a little thin, with everyone simply running around and debating until the story is over. But Miles manages to keep it moving in the meantime and makes the particulars fascinating to keep the reader engaged. By turns playful and horrifying and thought provoking, it's far more complex and adult than any of the books before it and in a sense feels like a manifesto of sorts, Miles going and showing the other authors how he thinks the line should be, leading by example as it were (he's always been vocal about how the show should be, and has pretty high standards) and showing that it doesn't have to be content to simply go over old concepts. Coming from an author who had just written one Who book thus far (Virgin's "Christmas on a Rational Planet"), this was astounding work and proved that the range could be both intelligent and complex. It's probably slightly overrated but still worth tracking down anyway, to show the BBC finally starting to get it right.
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on October 22, 2001
This book is a major turning point in the 8th Doctor novels. It lays down the groundwork for some huge and far reaching story arcs later on. But a good thing about this novel is that it is very enjoyable and funny as well. I dont know if it was intended to be funny, but some parts of this story I thought were hilarious. I think it is good that a novel as important as this one can also find the time to be light hearted without detracting from the serious issues at stake. But I would only advise reading this if you have a fairly good backgroung knowledge on Dr Who. If you're new to the series then this is not good book to start on because after several chapters you'll be completely lost. But if you know your stuff when it comes to Dr Who then I would most definitely recommend this novel.
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on July 15, 1999
This is the best Doctor WHO novel in the BBC's eighth Doctor series. You'll regret it if you miss this book: you'll miss a good look into Gallifrey's distant future (and the Doctor's), you'll miss the Type 103 TARDIS, Gallifrey's war in the future, an auction influencing the destiny of several time-dwelling species, and you'll miss the return of the all-powerful KROTONS.
Admittedly, I haven't liked Lawrence Miles' previous novels (I really disliked "Christmas on a Rational Planet"), but this novel is completely engrossing. The internet polls for Doctor WHO novels rank this novel as the BEST in the series so far.
Incidentally, the copy that Amazon sent me has 313 pages, not 288 as listed.
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on February 1, 1999
Alien Bodies is highly recommended. It breaks new ground in the field of Gallifreyan mythos, whilst still remaininga highly entertaining read. It contains a number of references to other books, and tangential glimpses at the future of the Doctor's homeworld. Other story references do not intrude, but, if you spot them, can be very entertaining. Some of the revelations, and their implications, are dazzling. Well worth reaing.
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on June 22, 2011
Lawrence Miles presents a scary, flavorful, unpredictable story full of character development and lore. This is simply a must-read for anyone exploring the Eighth Doctor.

If you've ever wondered what kinds of powers it'd take to challenge the all-powerful Time Lords, Alien Bodies satisfies that craving without a single cop-out, and best of all, without resorting to simplicity. Anyone who's ever thought about the difficulties in portraying factions and characters with god-like power, will be awed. You never feel these factions are cookie-cutter, or vague. Their key exposition is not ever smeared in an air of "you wouldn't understand." To the contrary, Miles never once falters in his steps as he puts these powers in your face.

Boiled down to its nugget of formula, Alien Bodies is a whodunnit driven by shadowy puppet masters. But that nugget is well-hidden behind amazing characters - not one archetype is played straight here. Bonus fun for anyone who enjoys it when the Doctor is operating frightened, vastly outclassed, and without a plan.

I have only one complaint: Miles seemed committed to devoting one chapter for each supporting character, explaining what led that character to this story - and one of those characters was too alien, and too incidental, for me to care about. But even that chapter lent insight to the story, and, aside from representing the book's only mistake in pacing, it had a unique flavor and wound up earning a "bravo" from me.

Lastly, I must mention the stakes. Doctor Who stories are supposed to threaten, and stories about god-like powers should march doom right up the bridge of your nose. As the stakes start being revealed in the prose, you will feel that doom, and you'll feel its impact on the characters. You will be haunted for the rest of the book as it sinks in that these events represent the beginning of an arc that must be pursued through later Eighth Doctor Adventures.

Must-read.
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on March 12, 2015
Looking back at that gap between televised Doctor Who that listed between December 1989 and March 2005, it is sometimes hard for me to understand how it could be called the “Wilderness Years.” There was one book after another virtually every month, Big Finish audios coming out monthly from 2000, a new issue of Doctor Who Magazine coming out every month and so forth. Then again, I came into Doctor Who in 2007 when the New Series had established itself and the Wilderness Years were well and truly over. That time period though produced some extraordinary and influential tales including this 1997 novel from Lawrence Miles, a book I've spent years trying to track down at an affordable price and one that I've finally managed to read at last.

Those readers familiar with the New Series, especially its most recent seasons under Steven Moffat, will likely find themselves experiencing a bit of deja vu. There's the idea of a war in the Time Lords future, the Doctor encountering his own future dead body, a companion whose revealed to have multi-time lines (or sets of bio-data as its referenced to here) and a sequence early in the novel where someone jumps into the TARDIS as it sits parked on the side of the building to name just a few examples. Anyone even vaguely familiar with the New Series will see the influences on The Last Great Time War that has dominated much of its back-story as well as the influences on several Moffat stories including Impossible Astronaut/Day Of The Moon and Name Of The Doctor especially. There's more to it than that though.

Alien Bodies also features pre-echoes of the New Series in style as well. There's the way for example that Miles reinvents one of the most maligned monsters of the old series echoes some of the more successful reintroductions of recent years. Also, while Miles is writing for the eighth Doctor and certainly captures Paul McGann's Doctor, his dialogue especially echoes that of Matt Smith's Doctor. Indeed once one moves past the prologue, it feels like a New Series two-parter expanded upon to fit the novel's page count with the last scene of the novel easily being a final scene with some voiceover and a Murray Gold score on top of. In the end then I can't help but feel that, for all Miles rails on his blog against the New Series, in this one novel he invented so much of it in the space of 313 pages

Moving on from its influences on the New Series, Alien Bodies is just a damn good book. In a way it's interesting to compare Alien Bodies with its immediate predecessor in the EDAs, John Peel's ill-regarded War Of The Daleks. Both books make strong use of the show's then 35 year continuity with references from it sprinkled throughout, interludes between large chunks of the narrative and large cast of characters. Miles manages to do all of that and he does it more successfully than Peel. Why? Because unlike Peel he doesn't become a slave to continuity and is also more than capable of poking fun at the same time that he's rehabilitating a much maligned monster. His interludes are connected to the main story, helping to fill in chunks of what got the characters to where they are at the novel's beginning rather than be inconsequential cutaways just to bring in a random piece of continuity. While I would argue that Peel did well with his characters in War of The Daleks, the ones that Miles presents feel more tangible, more real (possibly because they're not all Thal soldiers or Daleks).

It also helps that Miles has a wonderful writing style. His prose flows rather nicely and he handles the ever shifting tone of the narrative deftly as he goes from serious revelations (those “cliffhanger moments” of the classic series) to Douglas Adams style moments of whimsy to explosions and character moments without the narrative ever getting lost. This is also the book that introduced Faction Paradox and the aforementioned war in the Time Lords future against “the Enemy” that would come to dominate much of the range for years to come. It's easy to see this book as being to the EDAs what I think Paul Cornell's Timewyrm: Revelation was for the New Adventures: where they really began.

For all that, and for so much more, Alien Bodies might be the best Doctor Who book you've never read. Now I'm sure the majority of you reading this review have read it but for fans such as myself, who came in after the party that was the Wilderness Years had given way to the New Series, it's a book that we might never get the chance to read. It's certainly the kind of book that we're unlikely to ever see Doctor Who produce again. So if you can find it and can afford it once you have, get it.
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on December 2, 1999
I just finished reading the book for the first time. What an odd little book - at first. As you get into it you must understand that Lawrence Miles has been a DW fan for a long long time. The little in-jokes and refereces were great!
The Shrine of the Faction was creepy. The entire scene was creepy. One wishes it were a video so you could play it for Halloween. Yikes! Goths would love the Faction.
The only problem I had with it was the way the Doctor seemed to disregard Sam until she was in fatal danger and then seemed to suddenly remember she was with him and he was responsible for her. That point stuck with me.
By the way gang - this is an ADULT DW book. There is language and innuendo. I'd give it a PG-13 here. And the "rape" scene towards the end was really powerful. And no, it isn't what you think.
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on May 23, 2016
Fantastic book!
Characters are all flushed out well,great pace and humor,and the mention of gallifrey at war makes you think of the coming time war....or maybe it's an entirely different war.

Not to mention the type 103 TARDIS is enough to keep you daydreaming for years.
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ALIEN BODIES is probably one of the most frustrating Doctor Who books I've read in a long time. Frustrating because it contains some of the best concepts and ideas that the Doctor Who line has had in years, yet utterly fails to do anything remotely interesting with them. It feels as though much more thought went into coming up with these great concepts than into sitting down and thinking about how these wonderful ideas would make a worthwhile book.
The plot is almost non-existent, as virtually the entire book seems to be the set-up to something that never happens. Far too much of the main action happens off-screen in the distant future, so it's hard to feel any real emotion for it. The ending is especially annoying with the Doctor able to hop back and forth between reality and the Celestis plane of existence with ease despite not having heard about them before and knowing next to nothing about them. It feels like a complete cop-out.
I felt that the characterization of the main characters was also rather poor. Homunculette in particular seemed to be a one-note person and the fact that he was in so much of the book really turned me off of it. I got rather annoyed that every time he showed up he was shouting and screaming. Roaring for almost an entire book and then crying for one scene does not an interesting character make. The Shift (a creature made up of purely mental energy) almost made up for this, although a good concept and great execution does not necessarily make for a good character.
I'll go over some of the good ideas and how I thought they failed to make good on their potential. Faction Paradox - great idea and questions the fundamental aspects of time travel which is something that has never really been done in quite this way in the series' history. The Celestis - again, a wonderful idea that takes something we've seen before and puts a new twist to it. Dark Sam - almost anything would improve the regular Sam, but this is actually something intriguing. The future war and the enemy - good ideas that lay the seeds for the future. Unfortunately, that last sentence seems to sum up all of the elements in the book. It's so concerned about making the future a more interesting place that it forgets about the present. We are told about Faction Paradox's great powers and plans, but apart from a bit of voodoo and a spooky TARDIS we don't actually witness anything. The same goes for the future war and the enemy, and this is based on the fact that the Doctor can't know too much about events that have yet to happen in his personal time-line. The problem that results is that everything has to be taken on faith. The reader has to assume that Faction Paradox can do what's said of them, just as the reader has to assume that the future war is as important as it's said to be. And that's where the real problem lies; with so much of the story either happening off-screen or just being told and not shown, the whole thing ends up feeling hollow and unreal.
So, at the end of the day, we're left with a book that's bursting with good ideas, but that doesn't have any real way of tying them together. It's more of a checklist of concepts than a book in it's own right. Maybe this was written as a teaser for better things to come, but the story just didn't work for me.
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on January 28, 2000
I really enjoyed this Doctor Who novel. I enjoyed the way the groundwork was slowly laid for the second half of the novel when things began popping. I too found it incredible that the Doctor would forget Sam for such a long time, that seemed a little callous for someone who goes around saving the galaxy, but otherwise I greatly enjoyed the story.
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