doctor who - sick buildingPaul Magrs
BBC Books
2007

Tiermann’s World: a planet covered in wintry woods and roamed by sabre-toothed tigers and other savage beasts. The Doctor is here to warn Professor Tiermann, his wife and their son that a terrible danger is on the way. The Tiermanns live in luxury, in a fantastic, futuristic, fully-automated Dreamhome, under and impenetrable force shield. But that won’t protect them from the Voracious Craw. A gigantic and extremely hungry alien creature is headed remorselessly towards their home. When it gets there everything will be devoured. Can they get away in time? With the force shield cracking up, and the Dreamhome itself deciding who should or should not leave, things are looking desperate…

One of the major tropes in Science Fiction happens to be the always amusing Artificial Intelligence Run Amok. Usually it’s robots gaining sentience/corrupt programming turning against their human masters; once in a while, though, it’s the programming of something people live inside of that takes control of things and plays with our lives like an evil drunken kitten. This particular Doctor Who novel, Sick Building, actually features both the robots and the dwelling, along with Giant Space Thing Of Death as a nice aside.

Invariably, Sick Building ranks as a fairly good and entertaining Doctor Who yarn. You got the Doctor and Martha trying to warn the sole owner of a planet that it’s about to be eaten by something called the Voracious Craw (think that Doomsday Machine from that old Star Trek episode, only more of a space-dwelling tapeworm), only the guy is a bit of a ponce due to his talent for making robots out of things that aren’t robots, like the liquor cabinet, various kitchen appliances, and, oh, I don’t know…the entire house itself. Only, the AI of the house has a bit of a glitch, which means the house itself is what you would call insane, and since the main house mainframe controls the separate robots, and everything in the house is a robot…well, you can probably see where this is going.

Sick Building was a fun read, it was it was. It was a decently paced story with some good characterization and some genuinely tense action sections. Of course, the idea of making pretty much all the furniture into robots lent to some amusing mental pictures. All-in-all, I would say Sick Building is worth checking out.

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