On Thursday I had my own little World Book Day celebration and read a Quick Reads story. It seems like only a year or so since I first saw the Quick Reads appear in my old bookshop, but actually they’ve been going since 2006 – time really does fly. The laudable aim behind the publisher is to get more people reading. The books themselves are slim volumes of around 100 pages, with big print well-spaced out on the page. The layout makes it easier to focus on the words, and the length means more reluctant or less confident readers are not put off by some massive tome that looks as if it will require both a lot of effort and time to conquer.
But, the project can only be a success if the stories themselves are up to scratch. Over the years some seriously big names have contributed stories. This year’s authors include Kathy Lette and Andy McNab. The one I chose yesterday was a Doctor Who story by Mike Tucker. Tucker has worked on the series and written Doctor Who spin-offs, so knows the time-travel world well. I grew up watching Doctor Who with my dad and sisters, and since the Russell T. Davies revamp have been properly addicted. So, I was pretty happy that The Silurian Gift evoked the atmosphere and caught the character of the show. It starts with a suitably dramatic event involving an ordinary guy in an unusual location and a very weird creature. Poor Bob Clamp has taken a job in the Antarctic as a security guard; his mission to protect a new fuel source to solve the world’s energy crisis. He hadn’t anticipated becoming the first victim of a very large, very fierce creature.
The Doctor meanwhile is attending a press conference with the company owner who’s found this miracle fuel. I thought his mannerisms and quirks were captured just right. He’s cheerful, breezy and unintentionally funny. Once news of the accident filters through he is straight down to business though. He has a companion who basically hitches a lift with him, Lizzie, who is trouble and help in roughly equal measure. As is obvious from the title, the story involves the Silurian, who have been awoken inadvertently. But, it’s not just them roaming the ice.
So much action is packed into the short book, and it is easy to picture it all happening. I think it would make a good TV episode. The extra ‘monsters’ were a bonus, adding more complications to the already troubled human-Silurian relations. The ending is dramatic, although I’m not convinced the Doctor’s solution was actually that good. I enjoyed the story, and think it appeals to a very wide age range of readers. I have another Quick Reads too, which I am now looking forward to very much.