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Review of Transit by PalindromeRose

3 May 2024

Virgin New Adventures

#010. Transit ~ 1/10

◆ An Introduction

Doctor Who has long had a fascination with the London Underground, ever since they decided to have a bunch of robot yetis stalking the tunnels, on behalf of a sentience from the pre-universe. Now imagine taking the general concept of the Underground and converting it into a transit system that spans the entire Solar System! Oyster Cards at the ready people, as we tackle one of the most notorious books in the ‘Virgin New Adventures’.

◆ Publisher’s Summary

"Oh no, not again…"

It's the ultimate in mass transit systems, a network of interstitial tunnels that bind the planets of the solar system together. Earth to Pluto in forty minutes with a supersave non-premium off-peak travelcard.

But something is living in the network, chewing its way to the very heart of the system and leaving a trail of death and mutation behind it.

Once again a reluctant Doctor is dragged into human history. Back down amongst the joyboys, freesurfers, chessfans, politicians and floozies, where friends are more dangerous than enemies and one man's human being is another's psychotic killing machine.

Once again the Doctor is all that stands between humanity and its own mistakes.

◆ The Seventh Doctor

Aaronovitch really managed to screw up the characterisation, didn’t he? The Doctor is acting completely out of character in ‘Transit’, even getting black-out drunk at one point!

The Doctor had a cavalier attitude to first steps. A quick look round with the Tardis scanner, he puts on his hat, opens the door, and out he goes. He happens to be a doctor of everything. He sees someone in danger and he tries to save them. He cannot help himself. When the Doctor is asked why he has two hearts he claims it’s because he’s the anomaly, the spanner in the works, the fly in the ointment, the cheese grater in the goldfish bowl.

◆ Bernice Summerfield

‘Transit’ is the first novel to feature Prof. Summerfield as an active companion, and she gets kicked to the kerb almost immediately! I cannot blame Aaronovitch for that though, as she was a last minute addition to the book.

In Benny’s experience the first step into a new environment could kill you faster than a bad-tempered Dalek. You were supposed to be cautious. The explorers’ manual had a checklist: check the atmosphere, check for bugs, animals, subsidence, solar radiation, check that the god-damn landing ramp had extended properly. It went on for fifteen pages.

◆ Underground, Overground, Buses And Bikes!

The reputation of this book precedes it. Ben Aaronovitch was already quite well known in fan-circles when ‘Transit’ was released, having previously written one of the best Dalek serials for television. I can only imagine then how shocked people were to discover his name attached to such an abysmal story as this.

One of the most important aspects of any book is immersion. If your dialogue is incredibly clunky, or the world-building is paper thin, then I simply wont feel invested in the story you are trying to tell. Do you know what manages to break the immersion with the ease of a homewrecker breaking up a shaky marriage? Forcing me to glance at the final pages of the book every couple of seconds, because you couldn’t be bothered to do any proper world-building, meaning that you need a two-page glossary to explain all the various bits of slang and techno jargon! Going back and forth from chapter to glossary was already getting on my nerves by the time I’d finished the first chapter, so imagine how I felt having to do that throughout the entire book. I’m nowhere near done slating this publication, but I think we can all agree that ‘Transit’ is atrociously written.

◆ Edgy Tripe!

I understand that the ‘New Adventures’ were aimed at a more mature audience, the people who had grown up watching Doctor Who on the telly and were young adults by the early nineteen-nineties. The fiction was growing up alongside its fanbase, but it’s incredibly easy for a writer to confuse a mature narrative with the edgy tripe you would’ve found festering on Tumblr before the big purge of December 2018.

Fourteen instances of the f-word, characters using drugs throughout the book, and a graphic scene of intercourse that goes on for two whole pages. What in the name of sanity was going through Aaronovitch’s head when he decided that these things would be great additions to a Doctor Who novel?

Then you have perhaps the most infamous scene in the entire book, which happens on page forty-four. The majority of reviews have already discussed what that scene entails, so I wont bore you by going over it for the umpteenth time, but I genuinely cannot understand what possessed Aaronovitch to put THAT line into this book.

◆ Conclusion

This train terminates here.”

I always wondered why BigFinish decided to skip this book, especially considering it was Benny’s first trip in the Tardis. Now I understand why. Telling you all that ‘Transit’ is apocalyptically awful is like flogging a dead horse at this point. This book is notorious across all corners of the fandom for being the worst thing Ben Aaronovitch has ever written. I was genuinely shocked to see his name attached to such utter drivel, given that he was responsible for ‘Remembrance of the Daleks’ - one of the greatest serials from the dying days of Classic Who.

The Doctor spends a whole scene getting mortal drunk on cheap booze, whilst his new companion is possessed by an all-powerful entity for the whole book – thus having little chance to make an impression on the reader.

Unapologetically vulgar and filled to bursting with some of the most unlikeable and boring characters you will ever encounter. It’s utterly staggering that ‘Transit’ got published in the first place. Avoid it like the Bubonic plague!

Review created on 3-05-24