Book review: "12 Doctors, 12 Stories, 12 Postcards," by 12 Authors

To celebrate 50 years of Doctor Who, Puffin invited 11 beloved authors (and Whovians) in science fiction and fantasy  to pen 11 shorts, one per the incarnation of the iconic character through the years. This proved to be a wildly successful endeavor, with fans and critics praising the collection. When Peter Capaldi was announced as the 12th Doctor, this collection was updated with the addition of a new story by Holly Black, a highly successful writer of fantasy. Puffin repackaged the single book as 12 booklets (a fantastic idea!) and also included 12 postcards of the covers as a collectible item to entice Whovians to dip into their pockets for a second time.

The author roster is packed with enough talent to make a baker's dozen! 

  1. A Big Hand for The Doctor (Eoin Colfer) - The acclaimed author most famous for his Artemis Fowl series pens the opening chapter, that finds The Doctor searching for Susan (his granddaughter) while battling a Soul Pirate.

  2. The Nameless City (Michael Scott) - Jamie, the Doctor's companion, inadvertently leads the second Doctor into a trap set up by an ancient foe that seeks the complete annihilation of the Time Lords.

  3. The Spear of Destiny (Marcus Sedgwick) - To prevent the Spear of Destiny, one of the most powerful artifacts ever created, from falling into the wrong hands, the third Doctor and Jo Grant plan a simple bait-and-switch to steal the real thing from Odin, the Viking God himself. Easy, right? Not when a certain frenemy is involved!

  4. The Roots of Evil (Philip Reeve) - Tom Baker (Doctor #4) remains one of the most popular Doctor to-date, due to a variety of factors. The "classic" series arguably reached its peak during his tenure, with an all-round stellar work in every department. Doctor Who has never shied away from politics and contemporaneous issues, and Baker's tenure saw perhaps the most explicitly political storylines. Philip Reeve brings another topical issue to light with his short story that explores the relationship of humans with their environment, specifically trees.

  5. Tip of the Tongue (Patrick Ness) - The fifth Doctor and Nyssa land in a small town in America tracing a temporal anomaly, only to find themselves facing a crazy new teenage fad of Truth Tellers - organic neckwear that speaks the truth and nothing but the truth. Touching on topics of racism, gender-bias (the heroine of this story is a plucky black girl who is a top-class mechanic), and overly melodramatic rom-com narratives, this is yet another story that would be equally at home in a children's literature list as well as adult reading.

  6. Something Borrowed (Richelle Mead) - Prolific YA writer (and Seattle native! Yay!) Richelle Mead takes us on a tour of the planet Koturia, where The Doctor and Peri have been invited for a special wedding. This story gives wedding-crashing a whole new meaning!

  7. The Ripple Effect (Malorie Blackman) - UK Children's Laureate Malorie Blackman investigates a Universe where, due to the Doctor's efforts, his arch enemies, the Daleks, have turned into a force for the good. The Doctor confronts his worst nightmare, and with Ace by his side, we can always expect an explosive climax!

  8. Spore (Alex Scarrow) - The 8th Doctor stars in this thrilling tale of a deadly super-pathogen that once attacked Gallifrey, the Doctor's home-world, and now threatens to decimate the humans. The key to stopping it lies at the heart of Fort Casey, NV which boasts "The Friendliest Welcome Outside of Home," even if you are an extraterrestrial pathogen intent on conquering Earth.

  9. The Beast of Babylon (Charlie Higson) -  Stories 9, 10, 11 & 12 bring up the "New Who," the Doctors of the series revived in 2005. True to the original scripts, these stories are smarter, and more experimental in their content than the preceding stories. In "The Beast of Babylon", Charlie Higson takes a pivotal moment at the end of the 2005 pilot episode "Rose," and turns it into a swashbuckling adventure that neatly tackles the modern sensibilities of diversity, and its acceptance.

  10. The Mystery of the Haunted Cottage (Derek Landy) - Ten and Martha Jones find themselves in a world created of the book characters she read as a kid. The plot offers kid groups (check), an outcast (check), a creepy caretaker (check), mysterious lights-in-the-forest (check), a haunted cottage (check), and an opportunity for Ten to indulge in the most whimsical meta-narrative comments. This lovely tale keeps its tongue firmly in its cheek and may well have been subtitled - "Meta-fiction for kids."

  11. Nothing O'Clock (Neil Gaiman) - There are very few authors who can combine horror with children's literature the way Neil Gaiman can -- with deftness, and a sensitivity that scares adults and thrills kids. "Nothing O'Clock" is scary, genuinely scary, and that is a good thing! It showcases the prime reason behind the show's success - not being typecast into formulaic genre-stories. In this story, Eleven and Amy face a foe that accomplishes its goals by exploiting human greed, and advocates why consumerism could be more fatal to humanity than bloodshed. Loved this one!

  12. Lights Out (Holly Black) - Lights Out, the final tale in our Doctor's Dozen, is an atmospheric thriller that takes place on the International Coffee Roasting Station (Yes, ICRS, or informally known as "icarus".)  It uses an ingenious plot device to unravel a murder mystery in a world of caffeine freaks. Set moments after "Deep Breath," Peter Capaldi's debut episode, we see the Doctor trying to order the third-best-coffee-in-the-Universe, while his date (Clara) waits for her cup at a cafe in Glasgow.

The collection is a wonderful set of stories to introduce younger readers to the Whoniverse (that is a term, yes), and the individually printed shorts ensure that when the teeny tiny Daleks do endeavor to read them, they can do so without the fear of exterminating each other!

Highly recommended!

The original, 50-year version of 11 Doctors, 11 Stories