[Meta Note] Some familiarity with Doctor Who is required to understand this review, namely the basic character of the Thirteenth Doctor as portrayed by actress Jodie Whittaker.
The thing I love most about Doctor Who novels is the chance they give to explore in depth the characters which aren’t always given enough of a chance to shine in the series itself. With so much that needs to be packed into the arc of a series, and into individual episodes, it’s really nice to be able to curl up on the couch and enjoy an adventure with the Doctor and her companions where we not only are they dashing along on an adventure, but we also get to explore more of what they are thinking internally. While the actors do a fantastic job of conveying the emotion and feelings of the characters through body language and tone, books were my first love, and there is something about internal narration that I find vibes much better with my personal ability to get immersed in a story.
Aside from the Doctor and her ‘fam’ — Yaz, Ryan, and Graham — Molten Heart also includes a memorable cast of characters native to the planet within which team TARDIS has landed, such as the young Ash, her father, Basalt, and his old friends Quartz and Emerald. If you’re wondering why many characters have names that sound like stones, that’s quite simple. The planet that the fam has landed on in this book — or rather landed in — is occupied by beings made out of stones, and their names, when translated into English, roughly correspond to the name of that stone.
The reason I say landed in is because the society of stone-people do not occupy the surface of the planet, but rather live within its molten surface, in a glittering diamond city. Quartz is successful and rich, well respected throughout their society, and Emerald is their leader, who, while not entirely unkind, is restricted and paranoid in her thinking, which puts her at odds with Basalt, an open minded inventor, who many consider a madman, with dangerous ideas.
Their society is under threat, and Basalt has disappeared, on a mission to investigate what he thinks is the source of their issues, though few believe him. A curious Ash has been left behind, and it is she who frees the Doctor and her friends when they discover the city in this state, and are captured by Emerald’s guards. One of Basalt’s dangerous ideas is that there might be other kinds of beings — aliens — which sounds preposterous when there is no concept of outer space, but the Doctor & co. are proof that at least some of Basalt’s ideas are not as mad as people thought.
This book was a really fun read, and I enjoyed getting to know the rules of this world that was inside a planet, and really start to think about what the world would be like if there was no concept of sky. Getting to see Ash’s confusion over what humans (and the Doctor, but she looks human) could possibly be, and why they look so strange was a great deal of fun. I was a little confused by the naming conventions at first, because I wondered if they wouldn’t run out of names if people ended up as being composed of the same or similar stones, but then I remembered that everything I’m reading is through the lens of translation, and that clued me in a bit better.
This was also a quick read — only took me a couple hours, and it was that kept me on my toes with regard to action and adventure, but at the end left me with a warm and fuzzy feeling after reading. I would highly recommend to Doctor Who fans out there that they give it a try.