Liverpool Sound and Vision Rating 8.5/10
It is a disease that somehow has managed to invade the very well of fears and become the very identity in which we realise that our lives are but feeding grounds to pestilence and sickness, arguably no other disease has struck as much terror into the hearts of humanity than that of Yersinia Pestis, the Bubonic Plague, the Black Death; whichever quaint word you choose to give it, it boils down to the same sense of heightened emotions, death that is painful, contagious, virulent and almost mercy.
We may owe our existence to the fact that our forbearers had some immunity to this deadly and most disgusting of diseases, but it still makes news when an outbreak is notices on some Indian Ocean island or in a state national park. It is the fear that it would come to an overcrowded and built up populace, where there is no escape, bad enough in the 14th Century, decimating in the 17th, now imagine Paris under siege, Hamburg off limits, Edinburgh reduced to a Plague City.
Jonathan Morris invokes that heightened sense of realism, of the nature of the disease and how it is rampant in a world of overcrowding and unsanitary conditions, all in which immediately brings a sense of misery and sorrow in itself to the mind of the reader who relishes the writer’s work for Doctor Who and the stories he has created.
Anybody with the scantest of regard for history, for the fondness of learning about the past, will know of the great plague that was burnt out in London by the fires started in Pudding Lane, and yet in 1645 Edinburgh itself was torn apart by Plague, just as deadly, just as terrifying and one that is captured fully by Mr. Morris as he places Peter Capaldi’s Doctor, alongside Bill Potts and Nardole in the thick of the deadly contagion.
The sense of dread is one that is hard to pin down throughout the entirety of any novel, and whilst there are moments of light relief, of explanation and mystery; it is impossible to ignore the point of Jonathan Morris’s words, the foreboding, the sense of betrayal of humanity and the ghosts we allow to wander in and out of lives.
Dread, fear, panic, all of these emotions are more contagious than the disease and yet we put them down to nerves, we excuse them as one would excuse dust on a mantel piece or a cigarette put out haphazardly under foot and yet as Plague City makes clear, panic and fear are not just the bed fellows of disease, they are the parents to an offspring which causes more destruction, more devastation than the disease itself, for in misinformation, lack of care by the authorities and lost hope, we all sign our own personal death warrants.
A tremendously enjoyable story, Plague City gets under the skin and makes you see just what can cause you to have nightmares.
Ian D. Hall