(2016) Guy Adams, BBC Books, £7.99, pbk, 261pp, ISBN 978-1-785-94186-3
Okay, true confessions time. I haven’t seen an episode of the 'Doctor Who' spin-off series Class' but I did see the trailer featuring lots of head-turning, dramatic music and some gnarly-looking, nasty critters from outer space – the Shadow Kin - and I did catch snatches of the odd scene when it was repeated on terrestrial telly, rather than the original run on the internet based BBC 3.
Joyride is one of three spin-off books from the BBC based on the series which is set at Coal Hill school which actually featured in the very first episode of Doctor Who called 'An Unearthly Child' way back in 1963, and has since featured in the story 'Remembrance of the Daleks' and the 50th anniversary show 'The Day of the Doctor'. Companion, Clara Oswald, taught English there and the Doctor did a stint as janitor in the 2014 series. Now in Class the school is the site of a rift in time and space and is under the protection of a bunch of young adults and a teacher, Miss Quill. Some of this group are human, some are not, some of them are also rather deadly.
Ah, the old rift in time and space routine, and well, you know what is going to happen there – lots, and not all of it good. In 'Joyride' people are behaving rather strangely, totally out of character. Stealing cars and crashing them, having sex with strangers, setting fire to their house and killing their family. Except it’s not really them, it looks like them, it is them, but only on the outside. Why? Because a really-nasty piece of work has encountered a little boy who is actually hosting an alien inside him and back at a disused industrial site there are more aliens in suspended animation and their ship which has assimilated the building, becoming invisible in the process, but they need power, and he can get it for them at a price.
Once, Garry Fletcher has powered up the ship and got rid of the aliens – and that alien blood certainly can stain - he starts to tinker with the technology and comes up with a money-making idea, the ultimate 'Joyride'. You can take over someone else’s body and have the adventure of someone else’s lifetime, and if you do something wrong, well, they take the consequences. I mean it was them, everyone saw them do 'it'. But there is too much strangeness going on and it soon attracts the attention of our group of young adults which contains the last prince of an alien race and his enslaved, alien protector, Miss Quill, easily the best character in the book, and probably the series. Think of John McGinley’s character Perry Cox in the TV series Scrubs' but with homicidal tendencies and you might get a hint of Miss Quill.
Adams is well-known for writing his own 'stuff' but has dabbled in the worlds of Doctor Who and Torchwood and Sherlock Holmes so we are in safe, but rather bloody, hands - the scene where someone decides to set his house on fire with his family inside is particularly nasty, but if you are a fan of the TV series you’ll enjoy this romp which is packed with humour (most of it dark), snappy dialogue and some twists and turns. Joyride could easily have been an episode of the show.
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